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By a. H. KEANE, B.A. 





J. S. VIRTUE & CO., LmiTEU, 294, CITY ROAD 6 




I. GEyEBAT, Slkvky 

Geological Changes, p. 2. Prehistoric Migrations, p. 3. 
Political Changes, p. 6. Aborigines and Xegroes, p. 8. 
p. 9. The Isthmian Begion, p. 12. 

Gradual Settlement, p. 4. 
Spaniards and Mestizoes, 



II. Mexico 


Central Contidcratioiit, p. 14. Progress of Discovery, p. 15. 

2. Mexim Proper, Xorsh of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, p. 20. Mountains and Volcanoes, 
p. 20. Rivers and Lakes, p. 36. Climate, p. 4S. Flora, p. 53. Fanna, p. b6. 
Inhabitants, p. 59. Ijower California, p. 93. Sonora — Sinaloa, p. 95. Chihuahua 
— Durango, p. 100. North-Eastern States : Coahuila — Nuevo Leon — Tamaulipas, 
p. 102. Inland States: Zacatecas — Aguascalientes — San Luis Potosi, p. 106. 
Guanajuato— Jalisco and Tepic — Colima — Michoacan, p. 109. Queretaro — Hidalgo 
— Mexico— Federal District, p. il5. Vera Cruz, p. 129. Morelos — Guerrero— 
Oaxaca, p. 135. 

3. Eatt Mexico, p. 142. Chiapas — Tabasco— Campeachy — Yucatan, p. 142. Physical 
Features, p. 143. Rivers, p. 146. Climate — Flora — Fauna, p. 153. Inhabitants, 
p. 154. Topography, p. 161. 

4. EeoncFinie and Soeial Condition of Mexico, p. 170. 

5. Government and Administration, 187. 

III. BETnsH Ho>"di:bas (Belize) 191- 

The Cockscomb Mountains, p. 193. Rivers, p. 194. The Seaboard, p. 195. Climate 
— Flora — Fauna, p. 197. Topography, p. 197. Adniinistrarion, p. 200. 


IV. Cen-tbai, . Avfrt ca : GuAiEstALi, Ho>"BUBAS, Saivadob. XicAEAGri, CosTi Rica . 

1. General Surrey, p. 201. 

2. Guatemala, p. 206. Physical Features, p. 207. Rivers and Lakes, p. 213. Climate 
— Flora — Fauna, p. 217. Inhabitants, p. 218. Topography, p. 225. Material 
Condition of Guatemala, p. 238. 

3. San Sahador, p. 244. Physical Features, p. 244. Rivers, p. 249. Climate— Flora 
— Fanna, p. 250. Inhabitants, p 250. Topography, p. 251. Economic Condition 
of Salvador, p. 254. 

4. Honduras, p. 255. Physical Features, p. 256. Rivers— Islands — Inlets, p. 258. 
Climate — Flora— Fauna, p. 260. Inhabitants, p. 261. Topography, p. 263, 
Economic Condition of Honduras, p. 266. 

2ul— 311 



5. NicarayiM, p. 270. Physical Features, p. 271. Elvers and L.akes, p. 275. Climate 
—Flora— Fauna, p. 280. IiiLabitants, p. 281. Topography, p. 284. Economic 
Condition of Nicaragua, p. 289. The Nicaragua Canal, p. 290. Administration, 
p. 292. 

6. Costa Rica, p. 293. Physical Features, p. 296. Rivers, p. 300. Climate— Flora- 
Fauna, p. 301. Inhabitants, p. 303. Topography, p. 30G. Economic Condition of 
Costa Rica, p. 308. 

V. Panama ■ 312—337 

Physical Features, p. 312. Rivers— Bays — Islands, p. 314. Climate, p. 319. Flora 
—Fauna, p. 320. Inhabitants, p. 321. Topography, p. 323. The Panama Canal, 
p. 329. Administration, p. 337. 

VI. The Abierican Meditekeanean : Gulp of Mexico and Caeibbeant Sea . . . 338 — 353 
Progress of Exploration— Soundings, p. 338. Catchment Basins, p. 341. Marine 
Currents, p. 343. Atmospheric Currents, p. 345. Temperature- Marine Flora and 
Fauna, p. 34S. Land Flora and Fauna, p. 349. Inhabitants, p. 350. 

VII. Ctjba 354—381 

Physical Features, p. 355. Rivers, p. 359. Reefs and Cays, p. 300. Climate— 
Flora— Faima, p. 364. Inhabitants, p. 366. Topography, p. 370. Economic Con- 
dition of Cuba, p. 379. 

VIII. Jamaica 382—395 

Physical Features, p. 383. Rivers— CUmate—Flora—Fauna, p. 384. Inhabitants, 
p. 385. Topography, p. 392. Administration, p. 394. 

IX. San Dominoo : Haiti and the Dominican Republic 396—422 

1. General Survey, p. 396. Physical Features, p. 397. Rivers— Lakes — Reefs, p. 400. 
Climate — Flora— Fauna, p. 403. Inhabitants, p. 404. 

2. RepulUc of Haiti, p. 410. 

3. San Domiiiffo, p. 418. 

X. Pueeto Rico 423—429 

Physical Features, p. 423. Inhabitants, p. 424. Topography, p. 425. Economic 
Condition, p. 428. 

XI. ViEoiN Islands and Santa Cruz 430 — 436 

St. Thomas, p. 430. St. John, p. 433. Santa Cruz, p. 433. Tortola— Virgin 
Gorda — Anegada, p. 436. 

XII. The Bahamas 437—448 

XIII. The Beemtoas 449—454 

XIV. The Lessee Antilles 455 — 4S6 

Sombrero— The Dogs— Anguila — St. Martin, p. 463. St. Bartholomew, p. 464. 
Barbuda, p. 465. Antigua, p. 465. Saba and St. Eustatius, p. 467. St. Christopher 
and Nevis, p. 468. Moutserrat, p. 470. Guadeloupe, p. 471. Dominica, p. 475. 
Martinique, p. 476. St. Lucia, p. 479. St. Vincent, p 480. Grenada and the 
Grenadines, p. 483. Barbados, p. 485. 

Appendix ............... 487 



94. Native Populations of Guatemala . . 224 

95. The Altos Kegrion 226 

96. Solola and Lake Atitlan .... 229 

97. SnccessiTe Displacements of Guatemala 231 
9S. Thickly-Inhabited Region of Guatemala . 233 
99. Lake Peten 236 

100. Density of the Population in Guatemala . 237 

101. Chief Products of Guatemala . . .239 

102. GcATESLsxis AjxiLDES, Altos Region . 241 

103. Political Divisions of Guatemala . . 243 

104. ArSOL AT AHTTiCHAPAir .... 245 
10.5. Volcanoes of West Salvador . . . 246 

106. Lake Ilopango 247 

107. Volcanoes of East Salvador . . 248 

105. San Salvador and its Environs .251 
109. La Libkktad, Poet of San Salvadoe . 253 
XIO. Density of the Population of Salvador . 254 

111. Interoceanic Waterparting, Honduras . 256 

112. Bay Islands 259 

113. Puerto Cortes and Lake Alvarado . 264 

1 14. Fouseca Bay 267 

115. Comparative Debts of Various States . 268 

116. Debt per Head of Population in Various 

Countries 269 

117. Territory claimed at Various Times by 

Great Britain . ... 270 
US. MosTBACHO Volcano .isd Shores of T.tin; 


119. Isthmus of Rivas 275 

120. The Kiearagua Waterparting . . . 276 

121. ilarrabios Range and Lake Managua . 278 

122. Population of Honduras and Nicaragua . 282 

123. Density of the Popidation of Honduras 

and Nicaragua 2S5 

124. San Juan del Norte before the Construc- 

tion of the Pier 288 

12-5. Projected Interoceanic Canals across Nica- 
ragua 290 

126. Lower San Juan Canal . . . .291 

127. Political Divisions of Nicaragua . . 292 

128. Gulf of Columbus 294 

129. On-e of the Thebe Ceatees or Poas . 295 

130. SusDcrr of Mount Ieazu . . . 297 

131. Plateau and Volcanoes of Costa Rica . 298 
132 Gulf of Nicova 299 

133. Gulf of DulJe 301 

134. GrATTJSo Indian 304 

135. YoirxQ T ir>M>v r»c; Indians . . . 305 

136. Puerto Limon . ..... 308 

137. Mill foe Huskino Coffee . . 309 

138. Highways of Communication in Costa 

Rica 310 

139. Administrative Divisions of Costa Rica . 311 

140. Course of the River Chagrcs . . .314 

141. Gulf of San Miguel. . . . . 315 

142. GuU of San Bias 317 

143. Caledonia Bay 318 

144. Gulf of Panama 319 

145. Isthmus of Chiriqui .... 322 

146. Panama . 324 

147. Paxama — View taken- feom Mount 

AxcoN 325 

148. Colon 326 

149. The "Mystery of the Strait ' at the 

Begi nnin g of the Sixteenth Century . 328 

150. Docks and Course of the Panama Canal . 329 

151. Sill of the Lock Canal . . . .330 

152. Projected Artificial Lakes on the Panama 

Divide 332 

153. Projected Cuttings across the Isthmus of 

Panama and Darien .... 333 

154. Projected Canal between L'raba and San 

Miguel Bays 334 

155. Cupica Bay 335 

156. The Raspadura Divide . . . .336 

157. Gulf of Mexico 339 

158. Caribbean Sea 340 

159. The Puerto Rico Abyss . . . .341 

160. Slopes draining to the American Medi- 

terranean ...... 342 

161. Main Currents of the American Medi- 

terranean ...... 344 

162. Deep-Sea Temperatures in the Atlantic 

and West India Waters . . .346 

163. Deposits on the Bed of the Atlantic and 

West India Waters . . . .347 

164. Aneg ad I .-ind the Horseshoe Reef . . 348 

165. Snake - Catchee and Chaecoal Giel, 

Maeti.mque 351 

16G. Preponderance of the White and Black 

Races in the West Indies . . 352 

167. La Coube (Cuba) and the Mer de LentiUe 355 
16S. Western Division of Cuba . . 356 

169. Eastern Division of Cuba . . 357 

170. Cape S;in Antonio and Corrientes Bay . 361 

171. Jardinillos 362 

172. Isle of Pines 363 

173. Plantation of Pineapples . . . 365 

174. Political Divisions of Cuba before the 

Spauisb Conquest .... 368 

175. ChobeebaTower ("Bvccaneers' Foef"), 

at the Mouth OP the Almendakes 371 

176. C^ban Seaports West of Havana . 373 

177. Matanzas 374 

178. Trinidad and its Harbours 375 

179. Central Isthmus of Cuba . .376 

180. Santiago de Cuba 37b 

181. Port of Guantanamo .... 379 

182. Railways of Cuba 381 

183. Hilly Region in West Jamaica . 383 

184. View taken at the Newcastle Saxa- 

TOEmi, Jaslaica 389 

185. District of Morant, Jamaica . . 391 

186. Kingston and Port Royal . . . 392 

187. Chief Towns of Jamaica . . .394 

188. Chain of the Cayman Islands . . 395 

189. Monte- Crisri Range and Vega Plain . 39S 

190. View taeex feusi the Mole St. Nico- 

las Pextn-stla, Haiti .... 399 

191. Ozama and Bmjuelas Basins . .401 

192. Isthmus of the Lakes, San Domingo . 402 

193. Chief Slave-Trade Routes . . .406 

194. Scene of the War of Independence . . 408 

195. Disputed Territory between Haiti and 

San Domingo 409 

196. St. Nicolas PeniiLSula • . . .411 



197. Gulf of Port-au-Prince 

198. South-West Peninsula of Haiti 

199. Lcs Cayes Bay 
20J. Geoup of Haiitass 

201. .iVzua and Ocoa Bay 

202. Santo Domingo 

203. Samana Bay . 

204. Puerto Rico . 

205. San Juan Buutista, Puerto Rico 

206. South-west Comer of Puerto Ric-. 

207. St. Thomas I»Iand . 

208. St. Thomas Harbour 

209. Virgin Island .... 

210. Santa Cruz .... 

211. View tax ex in Santa Cbuz Island 

212. Bemini Island and Banks 

213. Tongue of the Oteau 



































Nassau ....... 445 

TVatling Lslund 446 

The Bermudas . . . .451 

View taken from Gibb's Hill, Bf.E- 

MLDAS ...... 453 

St. Kitts 456 

A JIaktixique Ckeole Woman . 461 

St. Martin ...... 464 

St. John's Harbour, Antigua . . . 466 

St. Eustatiu.s ...... 467 

St. Kitts— View taken fkom Netis . 469 

Montserrat 471 

Martinique ...... 477 

Lines of Navigation and Submarine Cables 

in the West Indies .... 478 
Geneeal View of Casteies, St. Ll-cia 

Island . .... 430 



Mexico and Central America . 

Mexico and its Valley 

West Indies .... 



Havana .... 
The Guadaloupe Aroliipelago 



Indians of Tecpan, Guatemala . Frontispiece 

Isthmus of Panama — View taken from the 

Cidebra .... To face page 12 
Popocatepetl — View taken from the Thimecas 

Rancho ... .... 27 

Indian Village — View taken at the Huexooulco . 

Pueblo, Province of Mexico . . .75 
Panoramic View of Guanajuato . . .110 

Street View in Morelia 115 

City of Tida — General View . . . .117 

General View of Mexico 120 

The Chapidtepec Cypresses .... 123 
Puebla — View taken from tlie South . .126 
Vera Cruz and Fort of St. John d'Ulua . .133 
Cenote of Valladolid, Yucat-.m . . . ISl 

Ruins of U.xmal — The Governor's Palace . 167 

The Metlac Viaduct between Cordoba and 

Orizaba, on the Mexico-Vera Cruz ll:iilway 184 
Belize — View taken from the Harbour . .108 
View taken on Lake Atitlan . . . .214 
Escuintla — General View .... 233 

Indian Workwomen of the Hot Lands on the 

Pacific Slope 238 

Ilopango Volcano . . . To face page 246 

Honduras Scenery ...... 2G0 

Tegucigalpa — View taken from La Concepcion 266 

Ceiba 280 

Leon — View taken in the Main Thorouglifare . 284 

Port Limou and Uvas Island .... 307 

Panama Scenery — the Rio Chagres at Matachiu 314 

Indian Settlements, Islands of San Bias Bay . 316 

The Panama Canal — View taken at San Pablo 330 

General View of Havana taken from Casablanca 370 
General View of Matanzas . . . .373 

General View of Santiago, Cuba . . . 377 
Turtle Island — View taken at the Moutli of the 

Tliree Rivers . . . . . .405 

General View of Port-au-Prince . . .412 
General View of San Juan Bautista, Puerto 

Rico 425 

General View of Hopetown, Abaoo Island . 444 
West Indian Scenery — View taken in the 

Saintes Islands ..... 473 

View of Basse-Terre, Guadelupe . . 474 

General View of Fortde-France, Martinique . 477 

Kingston, St. Vincent Island .... 48i 











Central American Isthmuses and Inland 


citlaltepetel — view taijen feom near 

Oeizaba ..... 
Political States of Central America 
Mexico before the Annexation to 

United States .... 
Predominant Races in Central America 
Canals and Routes across the Isthmuses 
First Mexican Itineraries, 1517 to 1550 
Chief Positions scientifically determined in 

Regions studied by the Officers of the 

French Expedition 
Relief of Mexico 
Jonillo, according to Himiboldt 
Ori^iaba Peak .... 
Volcanoes of Mexico 
IgTieous Regions and Volcanoes of Mexico 
Convergence of the two Sierra Madres 
Various Altitudes of the Mexican Momi' 

tains and Towns .... 
Tamaulipas Coast Lagoons 
Coalzacoalcos Bar .... 
The Regla Falls .... 
Lake Chapala ..... 
Colorado Estuary .... 
Closed Basins of Me.xico 
Area of the Mexican Lakes at Various 

Vertical Disposition of the Mexican 


Isothermals of Mexico modified by Altitude 
Vegetable Zones in Mexico 
Extent of the Aztec Conquests . 
Aetlpiolal Pteamtd op Cholula 
Saceed Stone op Tizoc, in the Museum 

OF Mexico . . : . . 
First Conquests of Cortes . 
Port of Siguantaneo .... 
Scene of the War of Independence . 
Chief Native Populations in Mexico . 
Watee-Caeeiee and Toetiilas Woman 
Chief Native-Races in Mexico 
Prevailing Diseases in Mexico 
La Paz 
Guaymas . 
Mazatlan . 

Cathedeal of Chihuahua 
Tampieo . 
Zacatecas . 

San Luis Potosi- Goveenment 
San Bias . 
Ancient Mexico 




















































Cathedeal of Mexico 

Mexico and its Eu™onments . 

Tlalpam and Lake Xochimilco . 

Indian Maeket-Gaedenee's Canoe . 

Puebla in 1862 

Orizaba ...... 

Successive Displacements of Vera Cruz 

From Vera Cruz to Anton Lizardo . 

Harbour Works in Progress at Vera Cruz 

Acapulco ...... 

Chief Ruins of Central Mexico . 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec . 

Salina Cruz, the new Port of Tehuantepec, 

Minatitlan, Northern Port of Tehuantep. 

Bank of Yucatan .... 

Alacran Reef ..... 

The Usumacinta — View taken at the 
Paso Talchilan, on the Guatemalan 
Frontiee ..... 

Mouths of the Grijalva and Usumacinta 

Terminos Lagoon .... 

The Rio of Yucatan .... 

Maya Youths ..... 

Chief Ruins of Yucatan 

Ruins in the Lacandon and Tzendal Coun 
tries ...... 

Merida and North-West Yucatan 

Density of the Population in Mexico . 


Maouet Plantations, San Feauoisquito 
DisTEicT, NEAE Mexico 

Chief Agricultural Produce in Mexico 

The Worid's Yield of Silver . 

The World's Y'ield of the Precious Metals 

Y'ield of Gold and Silver in Various Coun- 
tries since 1492 . 

Chief Mineral Regions of Mexico 

The Boca del Moute Ascent 

Mexican Railway Systems in 1890 . 

Political Dirisions of Mexico 

British Hondxiras .... 

Parallelism of the Old and Recent Water^ 
courses ..... 

Belize and the Cockscomb Mountains 

Domains of British Honduius . 

Old Straits in Central America . 

Political Divisions of Central America 

Trend of the Guatemalan R mges 

Chain of the Fuego Volcano 

Antigua : Ruins op Cheistchukch, Agua 
Volcano in the Backgk und 

Pacaya Volcano .... 

Golfo Dulce and the Lower Motagua 

Landscape in South Guatem.ila — Bamboo 
















HE insular and peninsular regions which are watered by the Gulf 
of Mexico and Caribbean Sea form with the Mexican triangle a 
perfectly distinct section of the New "World. Tender the latitude 
of the tropic of Cancer, which traverses the Mexican plateau and 
touches the extremity of the peninsxila of Lower California, the 
contiaent has still a width of 550 miles, or about a tenth part of the distance 
between the two oceans towards the middle of Xorth America. 

But south of that line the mainland tapers and expands successively, while 
developing coastlines parallel with the escarpments of the plateau. Between 
Mexico proper and Chiapas occm's a first contraction at the isthmus of Tehuan- 
tepec ; this is followed towards the south-east by other shrinkings and expansions, 
terminating in the slender neck of land between the Gulfs of Panama and Darien, 
which merges in the South American continent. 

The eastern chain of the American Archipelago, comprising the Bahamas and 
Lesser Antilles, forms a cordon over 1,800 miles long, which sweeps round from 
the north-west to the south-east in a serpentine curve roughly parallel with that 
of Mexico and Central America. This vast outer rampart, of coralline formation 
in the Bahamas, of volcanic origin in the Antilles, encloses the so-called " Medi- 
terranean" of the I^Tew "World, which, like the Mediterranean of the eastern 
hemisphere, is divided into secondary basins, but which in other respects presents 
little resemblance to that great inland sea. 



The northernmost of these basins, that is, the Gulf of JSIexico, which develops 
an immense oval contour line between the peninsulas of Florida and Yucatan, is 
limited southwards by the long island of Cuba, and communicates with the neigh- 
bouring waters only through two passages with an average breadth of 120 miles. 
The southern basin, that is, the Caribbean Sea, is of less regular form, presenting 
between the Lesser Antilles and the Mosquito Coast a broad open expanse, which 
is again subdivided towards the north-west by two almost completely submerged 
ridges, indicated here and there by reefs and sandbanks. On one of these ridges 
stands the Grand Cayman Chain, while the other connects the Tiburon peninsula 
in Haiti through Jamaica with Cape Gracias a Dios. Thus the West Indies are 
attached to Central America by three transverse hills which might be called those 
of Cuba, of Cayman and Jamaica ; all three begin at the chain of islands sweeping 
round from Grenada and the Grenadines to Puerto Rico, almost presenting the 
appearance of being three branches thrown off from a single stem. 

All these lines of islands and peninsulas, which are interconnected in various 
directions between the northern and southern continents, give evidence of cosmic 
forces acting over vast expanses of the terrestrial crust. Nevertheless their 
somewhat symmetrical arrangement in intersecting curves is no proof that the 
upheaved lands were at any time continuous, or that the now partly submerged 
ridges themselves are the remains of isthmuses formerly stretching from continent 
to continent. On the contrary numerous indications drawn from the distribution 
of the animal and vegetable species seem to justify naturalists in concluding that 
certain contiguous islands have never formed continuous land during the geological 
record. Cases in point are the Bahamas and the Antilles, which by their natural 
history are more intimately connected with the distant Central America than with 
Georgia and the Carolinas. In the same way Florida belongs rather to the "West 
Indies than to the mainland of which it now forms part, while the Bermudas, lost 
amid the Atlantic waters, are connected with the Antilles by the Gulf Stream. 

The American Mediterranean lands, although lying almost entirely within the 
tropics, are perfectly accessible to man for all purposes of permanent settlement. 
In this respect they present an absolute contrast with the vast regions of Africa 
situated imder the same latitude. In the Old "World the desert, which begins 
with the Sahara, and which is continued across Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Turkestan, 
and Mongolia, comprises millions of square miles, whereas in Central America 
arid spaces are of limited extent, and in fact occupy that part of Mexico which 
lies north of the tropic of Cancer. Thanks to the humidity of the atmosphere 
and the moderating action of the marine waters, tropical America is almost every- 
where clothed with a rich vegetation. In some places are developed almost 
impenetrable forests forming a continuous mass of dense verdure, and wherever 
clearings are effected, economic crops may be raised in superabundance. 

The white race has even succeeded in perpetuating itself in the Antilles, 
notably in Cuba and Puerto Rico, adapting itself to the climate sufficiently to 
cultivate the land and engage in industrial pursuits. 

In Mexico and in Central America the mean elevation of the plateaux, offering 


a climate analogous to that of temperate Europe, has enabled Spanish and other 
immigrants to occupy the land. Flourishing European colonies have been 
founded on these uplands, ■where they have acquired sufficient influence to impart 
their usages, language and culture to the great mass of the aboriginal populations. 
Within 100 miles of the coast Citlaltepetel, the "Star Mountain," which passing 
seafarers beheld glittering at sunset and sunrise like a flaming beacon above the 
arid and swampy plains of the seaboard, seemed to invite them to scale the inter- 
vening heights and take possession of the breezy inland tablelands. They under- 
stood the language of nature which attracted them to these uplands, where were 
afterwards founded Orizaba, Cordoba, and other flourishing cities of " Xew Spain." 

Kg. 1.— Central Ameeicas Isthmuses axd Inlasb Seas. • 

Scale 1 : t0,0O>,0O0. 

to 500 


BOO to 2,000 

2,000 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

— 620Maes. 

"Wliile physically distinct from the continental masses of north and south, 
Central America itself is divided into secondary regions presenting such differ- 
ences that the inhabitants, grouped in separate tribes and nations, remained 
formerly almost completely isolated. Communications were rare and difficult, and 
no ethnical cohesion had been developed amongst these isolated elements. Before 
the conquest few migrations or interminglings took place, except in the Mexican 
regions, which lay broadly open in the north towards the plains of Texas, the pla- 
teaux and intermediate valleys of the Rocky Mountains and the CaKfornian slope. 

In the Mexican legends or annals are commemorated the peaceful or conquering 
movements of the populations following in successive waves of migration from 



nortt to south, from the banks of the Colorado and Rio Bravo to the vallej's of 
the Sierra Madre, the Anahuac tablelands and southern isthmuses. But the same 
records speak of the formidable obstacles encountered by those peoples, obstacles 
by which they were often arrested for decades and even centuries, and at times 
compelled to retrace their steps to their original homes. To the difEculties created 
by the resisting tribes were added those of the rough routes over the crests of 
transverse ranges, and the changes of climate on their passage through the forests, 
or on the descent towards the hot regions of the seaboard and isthmuses. Some 
of those northern invaders were arrested in the various depressions of the Mexican 
plateaux; others continued their march as far as Tehuantepec and Guatemala ; while 
others penetrated southwards to the plains of Salvador and the Nicaragua volcanoes. 

There can be no doubt that at various epochs other hordes from the north 
pushed even still farther south. But no documents dating from the American 
mediteval period make any mention of such migrations on the mainland. In fact 
in the narrow neck of land some 600 miles long, which bends round to the north- 
west corner of the state of Columbia, the natural obstacles become almost insur- 
mountable. Here nothing could be attempted except slow maritime expeditions 
continued from age to age ; but of such migrations all memory has perished. 
The movements of the native populatioas must have been prevented or indefinitely 
arrested by the rugged highlands stretching from sea to sea, by the impenetrable 
tangle of tropical forests, the sudden freshets caused by tremendous downpours, 
or the flooded tracts skirting the banks of the Atrato. 

The numerous islands of all sizes stretching in chains between the basins of 
the American Mediterranean, or along the borders of the Atlantic, were destined 
by their very isolation to become the homes of communities either differing in 
origin or else slowly differentiated by long seclusion. During the course of 
centuries their common descent was necessarily forgotten even by kindred sea- 
faring peoples, whose knowledge of navigation was rudimentary, although some 
of their craft hoisted sails and were large enough to carry as many as fifty Indians. 
The great diversity of languages formerly spoken in the Antilles and still current 
in Mexico and the isthmuses is sufficient evidence of long isolation and dispersion 
in the fragmentary woi-ld lying between the northern and southern continents. 

For this region a certain unity, at least in a political sense, seemed to be 
prepared by the discovery of the archipelagoes and adjacent mainland at the end 
of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century. When they landed on 
this new territory the Spaniards acquired definite possession of the islands and 
isthmuses, if not, as they supposed, for the dynasty of Charles V., at all events 
as an inheritance of the Old World. The Antilles and Mexico never faded from 
the memory of Europeans, as had been the fate of the earlier Norse discoveries 
in Greenland, Helluland and Vineland. 

In virtue of Pope Alexander VI.'s Bull awarding to the Castilians and Portu- 
guese all present and prospective discoveries, all those white settlers had to become 
Spanish subjects. The vast continental amphitheatre sweeping round the double 
basin of the inland sea, as well as its numerous chains of islands, was consequently 


at first comprised ^vitliin the Spanish domain. But the political unity of these lands 
was purely official, and often little more than nominal ; in many places the Conquis- 
tadores never even set foot, and down to the present time certain territories supposed 
to be within their jurisdiction have scarcely even been visited by the explorer. 

Xor were the Spaniards strong enough to retain political possession of all the 
regions discovered by their forefathers. The treasures which were brought to 


Europe by the first conquerors and which were multiplied a hundredfold in the 
popular imagination, could not fail to excite the cupidity of adventurers from other 
nations. Thus it happened that, either with the consent of their respective sove- 
reigns, who furnished them with letters of marque, or else as roving pirates recognis- 
ing no authority, daring mariners swarmed on all the seas of the Spanish Main, 
capturing their vessels, wasting their plantations, or even seizing the islands them- 
selves after massacrins: the first settlers. Some of the famous navigators of the 


sisteentli and seventeenth centuries were mere corsairs, scouring the high seas 
and occupying islets, such as Tortuga at the north-west angle of Haiti. These 
islands became the undisputed possessions of the buccaneers, as they were called, 
from the Carib word boucan, smoked fish or flesh, doubtless in allusion to their 
ordinary fare. With the exception of Portugal, which already possessed the vast 
territory of Brazil besides the East Indies, all the European powers were anxious 
to secure a portion of the CastHian world either by conquest, purchase or treaty. 

Of her original American possessions, Spain now retains nothing but the two 
Islands of Cuba, the pearl of the Antilles, and Puerto Rico. All the rest has 
been forcibly wrested from her, and even her hold on these has often been impe- 
rilled by revolts or foreign wars. 

England, an heretical nation in whose eyes the Papal Bull had no value. 

Fig. 3. — Political States of Centeal America. 
Scale 1 : 62,000,000. 


E. Spanish. A. Enilish. F. French. 
H. Dutch. D. Danish. 

, 1,240 Miles. 

became the mistress of tbe large island of Jamaica, of all the Bahamas, the Ber- 
mudas and most of the Lesser Antilles, beside a small district of the mainland on 
the south-east coast of Yucatan. To the share of France, Holland, and Den- 
mark have fallen some of the Lesser Antilles, and even Sweden till lately held 
the islet of St. Bartholomew. All were anxious to have their sugar and coffee 
plantations, and an independent insular depot for their colonial produce. 

When the American Republic was controlled in its foreign policy by the southern 
slave party, the Washington Government made repeated attempts to increase its 
territory by the acquisition of Cuba, most valuable as well as largest of all the 
Antilles, It also sought to establish a large naval station at the St. Domingan 


port of Samana, one of the most important strategical harbours in tropical America. 
Bat the opposition of the northern states, and to some extent that of the European 
powers, prevented the realisation of their projects, which had for primary aim the 
political supremacy of the slave-holding landowners. The only West Indian land 
belonging de facto, if not to the States, at least to an American trading company 
is Navaza (J^avassa), a rock covered with a deposit of guano, off the west coast of 
Haiti. As soon as the deposit is exhausted the Tiseless islet will be abandoned as 
several others have already been by the same company. 

On the mainland the aspirations of the all-powerful republic have been more 
abundantly satisfied than in the Antilles, and more than half of the territory 
formerly belonging to !New Spain, that is to say, Texas, California, New ilexico 
and Arizona, henceforth forms an integral portion of the northern confederacy. 
Kegotiations have also been entered into for the purchase of the right of free 
transit, in other words, of real sovereignty in the isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

Moreover, some filibustering expeditions, not officially sanctioned, but encour- 
aged in every way by irresponsible agents, were undertaken in the Central American 
republics, at the time when the rush was made from Xew York and the Xew 
England states to the Californian " Eldorado." In virtue of the same law by which 
riverain populations gravitate towards the mouths of the streams on which they 
dwell, the Americans claimed as belonging to them by " manifest destiny " the 
shortest route which at that period connected their settlements on both oceanic 
slopes. But if their essays in this direction proved abortive, they at all events suc- 
ceeded in thwarting the English, who, like themselves, were anxious to command the 
shortest interoceanic highways, and for this purpose had occupied the Bay Islands, 
near the Honduras coast, the so-called " Kingdom " of Mosquitia, a natiu'al de- 
pendency of Nicaragua, and even the port of Greytown at the mouth of the Lake 
Nicaragua emissary. 

Then came the construction of the transcontinental railways in United States 
territory itself, and this, combined with the energetic resistance of the Hispano- 
American populations, postponed, at least for a time, the accomplishment of the 
national aspirations for political ascendency in the Central American States. 

Since the epoch that followed the discovery of the Californian goldfields the 
independence of the Central American republics has not again been threatened by 
the United States. But the "Washington Government has steadily pursued a 
policy calculated to prevent European influence from replacing their own, and at 
the time of Maximilian's accession to the throne of Mexico they co-operated by 
their diplomatic action with the efforts of the natives to recover their autonomy. 

At present all the mainland of Central America. British Honduras alone 
excepted, is constituted in independent political states. Even in the archipelagoes 
held by the European powers, one large island is divided between two sovereign 
nations, the San Domingans, a mixed Hispano-Xegro people of Spanish speech, 
and the Haitians, of African descent and French speech. 

Altogether the insular world presents a marked contrast with the neighbour- 
ing mainland, not only in its political status, but also in the original elements of 



its inhabitants. Within a few years of the Spanish conquest, the "West Indian 
aborigines had almost completely disappeared. The natives of Haiti and Cuba, 
by whom the first European mariners had been well received, have perished to a 
man. The Carib populations of the smaller southern islands are also everywhere 
represented, except in St. Vincent and Dominica, only by half-breeds. 

According to Bartholomew de las Casas " the Christians caused by their 
tyrannies and infernal deeds the death of over twelve million souls — perhaps 
even over fifteen millions— men, women, and children." However approximately 

Fio-. 4.— Mexico befoee the Annexations to the United States. 
Scale 1 : 27,000,000. 

West or bneenwich 





. 620 Miles. 

correct may be this frightful estimate made by the famous " defender of the 
Indians," it is absolutely certain that the massacres and grinding rule of the 
Spaniards resulted in the extermination of the aborigines throughout the Antilles, 
while those of Mexico and Central America have held their ground. 

Hence the necessity of Introducing another race into the Islands of that " Carib- 
bean Sea," where the Carlbs themselves have been replaced by the negroes. 
African slaves were imported by millions to fill the void made by the wholesale mas- 
sacre of the natives. But no sj'stematic records are now available to determine with 
any accuracy the actual nimiber of "human cattle " thus transferred from the eastern 


to the western shores of the Atlantic during the course of over three centuries. 
Some writers speak of ten or fifteen millions ; but in any case the slave trade has 
cost Africa a far greater number of lives than it is now possible to calculate. 

Xearly all the negroes imported during the early period of the traffic perished, 
like the Caribs, without leaving any posterity. Despite their ready adaptation to 
a climate which differed little from their own, most of them, being engaged chiefly 
in the destructive work of the mines, died out within a few vears. 

Thus it happened that the negro race was very slowly established in the Xew 
\Vorld, being gradually constituted of a thousand different ethnical elements 
drawn from every part of the African seaboard, and diversely intermingled with 
the blood of their European masters. Thanks to these endless crossings, the 
native dialects of the slaves disappeared, and amongst the idioms current in the 
Antilles only a few words can now be traced to an African source. The slaves 
rapidly adopted the languages of their Spanish, French, or English owners. But 
if in this respect, as well as in the usages and outward forms of civilisation, they 
were brought under European influences, their physical constitution was better 
suited for the environment of the TTest Indies, where they have now become the 
numerically dominant race. Except in Cuba, where the Spaniards form the 
majoritj- of the population, and perhaps also in Puerto Eico, the blacks and 
people of colour everywhere form by far the most numerous element. 

This part of the Xew "World, the first discovered by the Spaniards, has become 
an ethnological dependency of the African Continent, and by a sort of retributive 
justice, the negro race has even acquired political autonomy in the large island 
of Haiti. Such an event is not without a certain historic importance. The des- 
pised race, supposed to be doomed to everlasting servitude, has forcibly entered 
into the number of sovereign peoples. It has not only victoriously resisted the 
efforts made to again bring it under a foreign yoke, but despite a chronic state 
of intestine strife and the rivalries of ambitious chiefs, it has for a century main- 
tained its independent position amongst its powerful and hostile neighbours. 

To the preponderance of the negro race in the Antilles corresponds that of 
the Indians in ifexico and Central America. The Spaniards who at first played 
the part of truculent masters and treated the aborigines abominably, are now 
merged with them under the name of ladinos. So true is this that the mesti- 
20s, or half-castes of the two races, constitute the chief element of the population 
throughout the northern Hispano- American republics. According to the official 
returns the white race is in a majority only in the State of Costa Rica. Thus 
history has resumed its normal course. For over three centuries the Spaniards 
had lived as parasites on the ilexican populations, and in accordance with a 
constant law of nature, this parasitic existence had incapacitated them for vigorotis 
action. Throughout this long period, the peoples of the colonial empire misgoverned 
by Spain remained without a history. Its annals were mainly reduced to a bald 
record of the appointment, recall, or death of public functionaries. 

But below a seemingly unrufiled surface, important changes were maturing 
in the social life of the nation. The heterogeneous racial elements were being 


graduallT fused in a conunon nationality, with like customs, ideas, and aspira- 
tions, and \ntli a growing capacity for acting in concert for the general welfare. 
Thus it was that when the metropolis, overrun with foreign armies, found itself 
unable to maintain its authority in the Xew "World, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, 
and the other Central American provinces, were suddenly seen to develop into 
armed nations, in which the descendants both of the Spanish CHanquerors and of 
the conquered aborigines were animated by a common sentiment. 

This sudden appearance of new nations, or rather the revival of the old Ameri- 
can nation?, clothed in a vesture of civilisauon different from that which they had 
formerly worn, was not confined to the central regions, but took place also in 
Colombia, Venezuela, Equador, Peru — in a word, throughout the whole of Spanish 
America. By a curious irony of fate, the Napoleonic epoch, which was supposed 
to signalise the close of the revolutionary period, and the re-establishment of 
autocratic government, led in the Xew World, on the contrary, to the outburst of 
a general movement of independence for the Hispano- American race. From that 
epoch dates the modem history of the southern continent. 

But the new order of things had been prepared by the successful revolt of the 
British Xorth American colonies, which acquired their independence several 
decades before the uprise of the Spanish provinces. Xot only were the English 
settlements emancipated at an earlier date, but they have also far outstripped the 
mixed Spanish communities in social development and general culture. 

Their work, however, was more easily accomplished, and in some respects is per- 
haps of less significance in the history of mankind. The United States are, so to say, 
little more than an expansion of the Old TTorld ; in their ethnical elements, 
whether white or black, tbey reproduce the social conditions of Europe and Africa 
in another environment," where the aboriginal element has been mainly eliminated. 
The tribes that have not been extirpated, or that have not been effaced by complete 
absorption in the surrounding populations, are not merged in the social system, 
but live apart, either still in the wild state, or in reserves under Government 

But the conditions are very different in Spanish America, where the bulk of 
the population consists of "Hispanified Indians," who, while receiving European 
civilisation, and mixing in various degrees with their white conquerors, have none 
the less remained the representatives of the old American race. The Anglo- 
Saxons have destroyed or repelled the indigenous populations ; the Iberians have 
assimilated them, at least on the mainland. In Mexico, and in the other Spanish 
repubh'cs, crossings and common usages have effected a reconciliation between 
various races which were formerly hostile, and even totally alien, to each other. 

Latin America, where heterogeneous elements still persist, cannot yet be 
compared with Anglo-Saxon America for its relative importance as a factor in the 
equilibrium of the world. But the various republics of which it is composed are 
none the less increasing in power from decade to decade, and are already suffici- 
ently consolidated to resist foreign encroachments. Collectively, they occupy con- 
siderably more than half of the Xew World, for they comprise, besides the 



Antilles, all the southern part of North America. But they are divided by the 
region of the isthmuses into two distinct geographical areas. 

In her almost isolated position, Mexico serves as an advanced bulwark for the 
whole of Spanish America against the Anglo-Saxon world. "Wars and diplomacy 
have deprived her of all her northern territory, her outer ramparts, so to say ; 
but she still retains nearly in its entirety the domain where the Spanish-speaking 
populations are chiefly concentrated. 

Characteristic of the Mexican nation as a whole is the incessant struggle it is 
compelled to make against the growing influence of the United States. Doubtless, 

Pig. 5. — Pbedomtnant Kaces in Centeal Ameeica. 
Scale 1 : 00,000,000. 

of Intlians 
over whites. 

Full -blood Indiana. 

Predominance — 

of Indians of whites 

over whites over blacks, 

and blacks. 

of whites 
over Indians. 

of blacks 
over whites. 

. 1,240 MUes. 

of blacks 
over whites 
and Indians. 

the powerful northern confederacy has a large share in the changes which are 
continually going on in Mexico. Nevertheless, the Mexicans seek their allies in 
the rest of Spanish America, and especially in Europe, and even in France, which 
not so long ago sent an expedition to destroy their political autonomy. They call 
themselves and feel themselves " Latins," and the very term ladino has become syno- 
nymous with "enlightened," or "civilised" throughout Central America. 

Should the emancipated nations of the earth ever group themselves according 
to their natural affinities and regardless of distances, the Mexicans and the 
other Latinised peoples of America will inevitably become associated with the 
kindred Latin peoples oi Europe. As in England and the British Colonies a 


stron- feeling has sprung up for a more intimate alliance of all English-speaking 
comm°unities, in fact, for the constitution of a "Greater Britain " encircling the 
globe-in the same spirit an "Ibero-American" society has been founded for the 
formation of a league between all Spanish-speaking states. At the first congress 
held by this association in the city of Mexico in 1887, as many as nineteen states 
were represented by their delegates. Belt's prophecy, that in a few centunes 
English would be the mother-tongue of all Americans, from the Frozen Isles of 
the great north to the Land of Fire, does not seem likely to be fulfilled. Jules 
Leclercq has even ventured to assert that in a short time all Mexico will be 
English. But this is a delusion, as shown, for instance, by the extreme slowness 

Fig. 6.— Canals and Eootes aceoss the IsiinniSES. 

Scale 1 : 20,000,000. 



Canal in 

, 245 Miles. 


with which the process of assimilation is proceeding in New Mexico, a territory 
where, at the time of the annexation to the United States, over forty years ago. 
there were only fifty thousand people of Spanish speech. 

Sooner or later, the region of the isthmuses must occupy a commercial position 
of the first importance, for here will assuredly one day be traced the great line of 
inter-communication between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Accordingly, the 
Americans might well suspect the European powers of the intention of seizing one 
or other of these passages. It was, in fact, the fear of such a contingency that 
inspired the « Monroe doctrine" of "America for the Americans," thereby for- 
mally reserving the possession of the isthmuses for the states of the New World. 


The vital importance of these narrow tongues of land was perceived by 
Columbus himself, as he coasted along the shores of Veragua, vainly seeking for 
the marine channel through which the two oceans were supposed to communicate. 
But this channel, or rather these channels, for there existed more than one, have 
been closed by nature since the tertiary epoch, and the work of re-opening them 
must now be undertaken by man. Pending the accomplishment of this enterprise, 
roads, and even railways have been laid down from shore to shore. The southern 
series of isthmuses is already traversed by two railways, those of Panama and 
Costa Pica, and several others have been begun. 

Unfortunately, the land itself is still indifferently adapted to serve as a high- 
way of communication between "West Europe and the East Asiatic and Austral- 
asian regions. In many parts of Central America, journeys across the forests, 
swamps, and unexplored tracts are attended by imminent risk. Not a single 
explorer is known to have yet followed the direct overland route from Mexico to 
Columbia. Even in the narrow spaces between the two seas it is dangerous to 
deviate from the beaten tracks. So great were the difficulties of travel and trans- 
port that tni recently neither east Honduras, north Nicaragua, nor Costa Rica 
possessed any outlets on the Caribbean Sea. In a commercial sense, these states 
could scarcely be said to possess an Atlantic seaboard at all. All national life and 
activity was centred exclusively on the side facing the Pacific Ocean, and from 
this coast the communications have been very slowly developed across the 
isthmuses in the direction of the Atlantic waters. Regarded as a whole, the 
inter-oceanic region is still almost an uninhabited wilderness, where the average 
population scarcely exceeds ten persons to the square mile. 



I. — General Considerations. 

XCLUDINGr the Yucatan peninsula, the territory of the " United 
States of Mexico " is a triangular mass which forms the southern 
extremity of the North American continent properly so called. 
These Hispano- American United States are bounded on the east 
side by the long curve of the Gulf of Mexico, on the west by the 
shores of the Pacific, which describe a still more extensive arc of a circle. Both 
curves gradually converge southwards in the direction of the Isthmus of Tehuan- 
tepec, where Central America proper begins, if not in a political, at least in a geo- 
graphical and historical sense. Both on the north and south sides, the frontiers 
are purely conventional, corresponding in no way with the natural parting lines 
of the fluvial basins. 

Doubtless, the north-east frontier, for a distance of about 750 miles, is traced 
by the Rio Bravo del Norte, which separates Mexico from Texas. But this 
narrow stream is not a sufficiently salient geographical feature to constitute a 
true dividing line ; on both sides the plains and hills present the same general 
aspect, and are subject to the same climate. No material change is perceptible 
for a long way beyond the Texan border, where the population grows more dense, 
and arable lands begin to replace the unfertile savannas. 

West of the Rio Bravo the frontiers, as laid down by the treaty between 
Mexico and the United States, are a mere succession of geometrical lines. At first 
they coincide with 31° 47' north latitude for a distance of 100 miles ; then they 
suddenly drop southwards to 31° 20' N., along which parallel they run westwards 
to 111° W. of Greenwich. At this point, the line is drawn obliquely to the Rio 
Colorado, 20 miles below the Rio Gila confluence, and then ascends this river to 
the confluence at Yuma, whence it follows a straight Hne across the neck of 
the Calif ornian peninsula to the Pacific coast, 12 miles south of San Diego. 

Despite the fantastic character of this geometrical frontier, it coincides at 
certain points with prominent physical traits in the general relief of the land. 
Thus it connects the upper Bravo valley with the head of the Gulf of California, 
not far from the profound depression between two distinct spurs of the Rocky 
Mountains traversed by the Rio Gila. 

At the other extremity of the Mexican territory, the political frontier is less 


justified by the physical conditious. According to tlie treaty concluded ^vith 
Guatemala in 1822, the common frontier runs from the Pacific coast near the little 
river Suchiate, across the main range to the Tacana volcano, and the Buenavista 
and Isbul heights, and thence eastwards along the parallel of 1 6° 40' to the left 
bank of the Rio Usumacinta, the course of which river it shoidd then follow to 
within 15 miles to the south of the town of Tenosique. But in these roughly 
explored regions, the river valleys have not everywhere been accurately determined 
and certain points of detail still remain to be decided. Bej'ond the Usumacinta 
the line runs westwards to the Eio Hondo, which marks the boundary of British 
Honduras, and which falls into Chetumal Bay at the south-east corner of Yucatan. 
Comprising all the outlying territories, and the remote Revilla-Gigedo 
Archipelago, Mexico has a total area officially estimated at 790,000 square miles, 
with a population (1889) of over 11,000,000. 

In its main outlines, this vast region was already known about the middle of 
the sixteenth century. Within twenty- four years of the conquest explorers had 
visited all the coastlands, and had penetrated far inland from Yucatan to California 
and the "seven cities" of Cibola. In 1502, Columbus had already met Yucatan 
traders on the coast of Honduras ; but it was only in 1517 that the Cuban planter, 
Hernandez de Cordoba, during a slave-hunting expedition, discovered the first 
point on the Mexican seaboard, the present Cape Catoche, at the north-west corner 
of Yucatan. From that point he coasted Yucatan as far as Champoton, where a 
disastrous engagement with the natives compelled the Spaniards to re-embark. 

In 1518, the survey of the coast was continued by Juan de Grijalva, whose 
primary object was to punish the natives for the reverse of the previous year, but 
who pushed forward beyond Champoton some 600 miles to the spot where now 
stands the town of Tampico. 

A third expedition, under Cortes, followed in 1519 ; but instead of keeping 
timidlj' to the seaboard, this daring adventurer aimed at the conquest of an empire. 
How he effected his purpose, with what courage, sagacity, and prudence, but also 
with what perfidy and ferocious contempt of the vanquished, is now a familiar 
tale. In 1521, the capital and surrounding districts were finally reduced, and 
armed expeditions were sent in all directions to extend the bounds of " New 
Spain." Olid and Sandoval penetrated through the provinces of Michoacan and 
CoUma westwards to the Pacific. Alvarado pushed southwards through the high- 
lands as far as Guatemala. Cortes himself occupied the Panuco country on the 
eastern slope of the mountains skirting the north side of the Mexican basin. Then, 
being recalled southwards by the revolt of his lieutenant. Olid, who had crossed by 
water to Honduras, he advanced south-eastwards to Tabasco, Chiapas, and the 
territory of the Lacandons and Mopans. 

Of all the expeditions undertaken by Cortes, none was more surprising than 
this march across rivers, swamps, and uninhabited forests. In crossing the 
Tabasco plains he had to construct as many as " fifty bridges within a space of 
twenty leagues." Supplies fell short, and his followers had to subsist on roots, 
berries, and vermin. Even at present few travellers, with aU the resourceo of 



cmlisation at tlieir disposal, have the courage to follow the route opened by Cortes. 
After his time none of the Spanish conquerors took the trouble of occupying this 
wilderness. They were satisfied ^yith the reduction of Yucatan, the conquest of 
which, nevertheless, occupied fully fifteen years, from 1527 to 1542. 

Although the less wealthy and less densely peopled north-western regions had 
fewer attractions for the invaders than the southern provinces, expeditions were 
despatched in that direction also. Vessels, whose sails and equipment had been 
conveyed from "Vera Cruz across the Mexican plateau, coasted the seaboard towards 
the Gulf of California, the entrance of which was reached by a squadron under 

Fig. 7.— FiBST MExiOAif Itdteeaeies, 1517 to 1550. 
Scale 1 : 30,000,000. 


West or brcenwicH 

. 620 Miles. 

Cortes in the year 1533. To the great captain this burning region owes its very 
name of calidafornax (hot furnace), afterwards corrupted to California. 

In 1539, Francisco de Ulloa penetrated into the inner waters of the "Vermil- 
lion Sea," so named either from the red sea-weed abounding in some of the inlets, 
or, according to Pinart, more probably from the deep red colour of the sands 
lining its shores. The following year Alarcon completed the exploration of the 
gulf, and even penetrated 85 " leagues " up the River Buena-Guia, afterwards re- 
named the Rio Colorado. 

In 1512, Cabrillo, rounding the headland of Cape St. Lucas at the extremity 
of the Californian peninsula, sailed northwards along the Pacific coast to a pro- 
montory supposed to be the present Cape Mendocino, beyond 40° N. lat. 

On the mainland, Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, escaping from the perils of a daring 
march across the Floridas, reached Mexico from the north in 1536. Between 


■^ ri-yl la„n 
It,- -?,— - X '^Ta.^it'i?^'*'^'^" 

'■"™^..,»„. ,„ ■-. S " =/— ^ («Wrf,„j, -i Victoria : 

iacatecaTjOjoCiUiTOU. \ i*- TUli° _ -, , .^„ 
■^ _ Ai^uasCalientss jSjWPotosi 


CalOTc.J, pr^ 






1' ft'-^'itiit Ojjl^ 

C'/A^r/o^^.i _^ 

«.^'*5^f:i.».* -^'^MlVn"-). i.Ai;SA>^^'''«"»»«S ^ M.5«*^ 




" ^t 


Scale, I 12,000.000^ 

50 100 150 200 150 


Towns of 2"^0rder 
Other towns &Anila^es 


Oto 3 000 feet 
3 000 to 6 000 „ 

6 000U) nooo „ 

12C00tol8 00O „ 
18 000 upwards 


♦l,b 310 Miles. 

, Over lOO.OOOmhahitaiits 
a „ 50.000 „ 
10000 „ 
.Dndfir 10.000 „ 
Depths • 

to 50 fsihijuis 
500 ta 1000 „ 
1 COO to 2 000 ., 
2.000.10 3.00O „ 
S.OOO u 4..000 ,, 
4-.000. upyrards 
















^7^ ' * Qyliuinic"^ Ts 





■\ •llrtwkiiu.-pillp 
J TlioiiuisvjII<- \ 'li ' 

Live Oak ,'f ■ 


t 'liantM^tU- Is. 










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HAVANA (rtUDidbarpvi 

■'^ Jatrihiiltbir " 


Ti'ul * 



iiB,,im„.i..„. '■^i'rt.'i-Jc.i».i*- ^ 

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■^ . — .. . ._ t 


»;' .«vnr.Tk,;J3,„.„,„I.,.„, 

-— , " --'-VC, Chanipoloin 

Tikal foro; 

f.itfj^ 0:nuivi 

Oi^f^t r^rtiuiU 



''''"-y'''/>'-<n,j.l,.72™ S.CoS«bal^.L,,l,,^ 
j^ , :_j>»'! T,-i,...u,f^,-Vi«hitft, ' -V «>i rA 
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»: .s.Bem(V ',•> .i¥«g„G U A T t IVI'A,C'A' 1 , -^'S U 8 "A' 

COa^ das a I>io 


.S..Iuan iJpISuj- j. j/v "" 
C ' - - 

Libfi-ia ; %^7* ^ Mfisfjui 



90 Meridian' of Greenwich.. 


; Ue &. c- 


1530 and 1532 the atrocious Xuuo de Guzman had reduced the provinces of 
Jalisco and Sinaloa ; then, in 1539, the Franciscan friar, Marcos de Xiza, advanced 
far into the region which is now known as Xew ilexico, and which lies within the 
United States frontier. Here he claimed to have ?cen the marvellous Cibola, 
which was soon afterwards shown bjr the expedition under Coronado to be nothing 
more than one of those villages belonging to the Zufii nation, where the whole 
population dwells in one huge fortiiied building erected around a central court. 
Coronado's expedition, which lasted over two years, from 1540 to 1512, and which 
was intended to co-operate with Alarcon's sea voyage, resulted iu the occupation 
and settlement of Sonora, the north-westernmost state of the present republic. 

But although the ilexican territory, properly so called, had now been traversed 
in all directions, the itineraries farther removed from the capital had not yet 
been utilised for the construction of maps, nor could this be done with any ap- 
proach to accuracy in the absence of astronomic determinations. In 1542, the 
viceroy ilendoza was still engaged in fixing the position of the city of ifexico 
at 25 degrees, -12 minutes farther west than its real meridian, the calculations 
being deduced from the observation of two lunar eclipses. Even so late as 1579, 
the map published by Ortelius gives only the central district round about the 
capital with a fair degree of acciiracy. 

Despite all the explorations along the Califomian seaboard, it was even still 
maintained that California itself had been circiminavigated, and its iasular character 
thus fully established ; hence the Jesuit, Salvatierra, who began the settlement 
of this region in 1697, gave it the name of Lsia Carolina (Caroline Island). In 
fact, the researches of the early explorers were not confirmed till the begiuniag of 
the eighteenth century by the missionary, Kiihn, the Eino of Spanish writers. 

It appears from the manuscript documents possessed by the Madrid Academia de 
Sktoria, and from the collections preserved in Mexico, that as early as the seven- 
teenth century the national archives, unfortunately closed to the student, contained 
all the elements necessary for a complete and detailed description of Xew Spain. 
Nearly all the memoirs forwarded to the Council of the Indies were accompanied 
by plans. Xevertheless, even the best maps were disfigured by errors of half a 
degree of latitude, and from one to two degrees of longitude. 

Alexander von Humboldt's journey in 1803 and 1801 has been described as a 
" second discovery of Mexico." .AH the known parts of Xew Spain were certainly 
not visited by the great explorer ; but his vast knowledge and intelligence enabled 
him to co-ordinate the itineraries of his predecessors, comparing and controlling 
one with another, and deducing from them, at least for the region of the plateau, 
the true form of the Mexican relief. 

He also studied the physical phenomena of the land, its igneous eruptions and 
thermal springs, the vertical disposition of its climates and flora, the direction and 
force of the winds prevailing on this part of the planet, the extent of its rainfall, 
the variations of its magnetic currents. Besides all this, he compared the mineral, 
agricultural, and industrial resources of Mexico with those of other regions, and 
ttius determined its relative value amongst the civilised regions of the globe. 




After tlie long sleep imposed upon I^f exico by the system of absolute monopoly, tbe 
labours of Humboldt were a sort of revelation ; he showed what the Spanish colony 
was capable of at the very time when its emancipation was already at hand. 

The exploration of the country was necessarily interrupted during the revolu- 
tionary period. But when Mexico at last established its independence, travellers 
began again to visit this part of the American continent, henceforth declared free 
to all comers. After the wars Burkart followed in the footsteps of Humboldt, 
and spent nearly ten years in traversing most of the mineral regions of the 

Burkart's work was continued by other explorers of every nationality, amongst 

Pig. 8. — Chief Positions scrENTmcAiLY detebmined in Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 30,000.000. 

West oF Gpeernfl!cf> 

Humboldt and his 

Other observators 
down to 1S74. 

. 620 JUIes. 

them the Americans, Stephens and Cathcrwood, who carefully studied the re- 
markable monuments still standing in the southern part of the territory. But the 
Mexicans themselves also began to take an interest in scientific investigations ; and 
in 1839, a geographical and statistical bureau was founded in the capital. This 
association, which is one of the oldest of the kind, in the world, has issued valuable 
memoirs on nearly every part of the confederacy. It has also prepared the mate- 
rials for a general map of Mexico on a larger scale than that of Humboldt, which 
was partly produced in sections, and afterwards as a groundwork for Garcia Cubas' 
atlas, the first edition of which apjjcared in 1856. 

Then came the trigonometric survey of the Anahuac Valley under the direction 



of Covarrubias, wliicli formed the starting-point for accurate geographical work. 
Men of learning, such as Orozco y Berra and Pimentel, also made exjiensive 
researches on the distribution of the aboriginal tribes of Mexico, on the history 
of their migrations, the origin, affinities, and structure of their languages. 

The American officers who penetrated into North Mexico during the war of 
1846, and again in connection with the delimitation of the frontiers, also took 
part in the topographical researches ; the maps prepared by them for Sonora, 
Chihuahua:, Coahuila, Nuevo-Leon, and Tamaulipas still remain the best docu- 
ments for the study of those provinces. The chief marine charts, especially 
those of lower California, are also the work of United States surveyors. 

But works are now In progress with a view to the preparation of a topo- 

Fig. 9.— Regions studied by the Oi-ficees op the Fbench Expedition. 

Scale 1 : 620 Mjles. 


. 620 Miles. 

graphical map on the scale of -j-T'oV'oT' '^liich will be worthy of comparison with 
those of the most advanced states, and which takes as starting-points on one 
hand the Mexican Yalley and environs of Puebla, on the other the northern 
regions studied by the American and Slexican Boundary Commissions. The 
cartographic service in the army of the republic comprises as many as 120 persons 
trained for the work. 

The period of preliminary explorations is now all but closed, except perhaps 
for some parts of the border-lands towards Guatemala, where so recently as 1882 
a " dead city " was discovered by Mr. Maudslaj' and explored by M. Chai'nay, 



II. — Mexico Proper, North of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

Taken as a whole Mexico properly so called may be regarded as a lofty table- 
land, on which stand mountain ranges and masses, which, despite Humboldt's oft- 
repeated generalisation, hare no kind of connection in their relief or general 
trend with the Andean sj-stem of South America. They should be grouped 
rather with that of California, though still with numerous interruptions. 

Mountains and Volcanoes. 

The mean altitude of the whole region is estimated at no less than 3,600 feet. 
A plane passing at this elevation above the ocean would detach from the sustaining 
pedestal an enormous triangular mass, whose apes would terminate in the south- 
east above the Tehuantepec depression, and whose base would be prolonged by 
two parallel horns projecting in the direction of the United States. 

The great central Mexican plateau is thus seen to be limited on the sides 
facing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by border ranges, or at least by a succession 
of heights or ridges forming a more or less continuous escarpment. Both of these 
border ranges have received the designation of Sierra Ifadre, " Main Chain ; " a 
term, however, which recurs in almost every part of Spanish America, where it is 
freel}^ applied to the dominating crests of the country. 

Like all border ranges, the Mexican sierras present striking conti'asts between 
their opposite sides, those facing inland falling somewhat gradually down to the 
plateau, while those turned towards the oceans are far more abrupt, intersected by 
scarps and cliffs, furrowed by deep crevasses, continually modified by landslips, 
and scored by tremendous barrancas (chasms or gorges). 

The whole region, which contracts gradually southwards between the two 
border ranges, forms, so to saj% a large avenue terminating in a labyrinth. The 
successive waves of migratory populations coming from the north were attracted 
from stage to stage towards the southern angle, that is, towards the basin of 
Mexico aiid the plains of Pucbla, which are bounded on the south by the Junta, 
that is, the " Junction," or converging-point of the two sierras. 

To the triangular depression left between these sierras the expression Mexican 
"plateau" is often applied ; it is also occasionally called the Anahuac plateau, or 
simply Anahuac, „ terms borrowed from Clavigero and Humboldt. Nevertheless 
the mesa or " table " of Mexico presents no continuous level surface, as might be 
supposed from the current expressions. The depression A'iewed as a whole 
presents rather a succession of basins, for the most part of lacustrine origin, which 
follow at constantly diminishing altitudes in the direction from north to south. 
But the separating barriers present such slight obstacles to migrations and travel 
that during the last century a highway was easily constructed from the capital to 
Santa Fe in New Mexico ; carriages could be driven from one city to the other 
along this road, nearly 1,400 miles long. 

In the southern districts round about Mexico the basins are of relatively small 



extent, but exceed 6,600 feet in altitude ; even the Toluca basin, in the angle 
formed by the two diverging main ranges, stands at a mean height of 8,500 feet 
above the sea. Going northwards from Anahuac the continually diverging sierras 
give more space for elevated plains, and in the northern regions the vast expanses 
enclosed by the encii'cling ranges present almost perfectly level surfaces, broken 
only by low ridges. As they stretch northwards these expanses fall in the direc- 
tion of the east, and the east sierra itself is much narrower, its mean elevation 
being 6,500 feet, or about 1,600 feet less than that of the western escarpment. 
A third range, parallel with, but completely separated from, the two sierras 

Fig 10. — Bkt.tkf of Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 30,000,t<X). 


V/est op breerwrc^ 


to 3.300 

3.300 to 6,600 



6,600 to 9,900 


J,900 to 16,500 

. 620 lliles. 

16,500 Feet and 

enclosing the Mexican tablelands, traverses the Califomian peninsula at different 
elevations and with two interruptions. Isolated eminences, " lost mountains," as 
they are called, are dotted over the space comprised between the highlands of the 
American California and the range traversing the peninsula which belongs to 
Mexico, but which continues the axis of the Sierra Madre. 

The mountains of this peninsula, varying as they do in height and form, must 
therefore be regarded as forming an orographic system quite distinct from that of 


Mexico proper. Ifot far from tte neck of the peninsula the system culminates in 
Mount Calauiahue, or Santa CataUna, terminating in a peak white as snow and 
rising 10,000 feet above the sea. 

The northern chain, which skirts the Pacific coast, ends north of the spacious 
Sebastian Yiscaino Bay, beyond which it merges through gently inclined plateaux 
in a ridge rising above the eastern shores of Lower California. These mountains, 
which are of tertiary formation, are interrupted by deep ravines, bej'ond which 
rises the volcanic group of the Tres Virgenes ("Three Virgins"), situated almost 
exactly in the middle of the peninsula, which has a total length of about 1,300 
miles. The peaks of this group appear scarcely to exceed 6,600 feet, though 
raised by some authorities to 7,250 feet. But considerable discrepancies occur in 
the elevations given by different writers for most of the Mexican moimtains. 

No eruption has taken place since 1857 in the Tres Yirgenes group, where 
nothing has been noticed except some vapours rising from the crevasses. All the 
other volcanoes in Lower California are extinct, mineral and thermal springs, with 
a few solfataras, being the only evidences of underground activity. West of the 
igneous group a chain of hills traverses the peninsula at an altitude of 3,450 
feet, and is continued seawards bj' some lofty islands at its north-west extremitj-. 

South of the Tres Yirgenes a ridge of tertiary sandstones, faUiug abruptly 
eastwards and presenting a gentle incline towards the Pacific, extends as far as 
La Paz Bay. But despite its name, the Cerro de la Giganta, the culminating 
point falls below 4,600 feet, while the mean height of the ridge appears to be little 
more than 3,000 feet. The extremity of the peninsula south of La Paz forms a 
sort of granitic island terminating in two parallel crests, one of which has an extreme 
height of 6,220 feet. Mineral deposits, including gold, silver, copper, and iron, 
occur in nearly all these coast ranges ; gold prevails in the schists of the west 
coast, silver ores chiefly in the porphyries on the opposite side. 

Lower or South California, however, notwithstanding its narrow width, 
rendering it easily accessible to travellers, is a comparatively unknown region 
owing to its excessive dryness and scantj' population. The mountain heights have 
for the most part only been measured or estimated at a distance by marine surveyors. 
Mariners also have chiefly studied the character of the coasts, one, washed by the 
Gulf of California, steep and rocky, the other faUing in gentle inclines towards 
the Pacific Ocean, which in many places is fringed by low beaches and sandy 
islets. The ranges on the east side rise precipitously above the profoimd chasm, 
through which the sea has penetrated far inland between Mexico and the peninsula. 

The islands on the east side are disposed in a perfectly parallel axis with the 
peninsular ranges, and rise to considerable heights. Angel de la Guardia, amongst 
others, has an elevation of 4,320 feet, and collectively these islands of Lower 
California have a greater extent than all the other ilexican islands taken together. 

Intersected by the straight line forming the geometrical frontier of Arizona, 
the various chains, which are limited northwards by the depression of the Eio Gila, 
penetrate into the territory of Sonora and Chihuahua in parallel ridges with a 
south-eastern trend. These various ranges are collectively grouped under the 


general desiguation of Sierra Maclre. In their central parts thoy consist chiefly 
of granites and syenites, but sedimentary formations are also largely represented, 
especially by a carboniferous limestone interspersed with thin deposits of anthracite. 

As in the Lower Californian Mountains, igneous eruptions have occurred at a 
great many points, and vast expanses on the plains and slopes of the hills are 
covered with molten lavas. One of the cones is not even yet quite extinct, the 
Pinacate volcano (5,450 feet), which lies beyond the Sierra Madre proper, some GO 
miles east of the Colorado estuary. In the middle of a vast lava field stretching 
south of the mountain, rise a few secondary cones, one of which is pierced by a 
cave from which escape copious sulphurous exhalations. To the genius of the place 
the neighbouring Indians bring propitiatory ofEerings of shells, darts, and the like. 

The mean altitude of the Sonera Mountains scarcely exceeds 5,000 feet, but 
some of the spurs projecting westwards rise much higher near the coast, where 
they present an all the more imposing aspect that they are here visible from base 
to summit, with their terminal cliffs and escarpments springing from the level of 
the sea. Such are, near the Arizona frontier, the Sonoala highlands, one of whose 
peaks has an elevation of 9,500 feet. Such, also, the Alamos, or " Poplar " group 
(5,900 feet), in the south of Sonora, followed by other coast ranges in Sinaloa. In 
winter their lofty crests are streaked with snow, and all of them contain numerous 
silver lodes irregularly crossing each other in all directions. 

South-east of Sonora the Sierra Madre rises graduall}', while still retaining the 
same geological formation and general aspect. Ilere the Cumbre de Jesus Maria, 
in the Tarahumara uplands, exceeds 8,240 feet, and the Frailecitos peak, near 
Batopilas, is said to fall little short of 9,900 feet. As they increase in height the 
crests draw continually nearer to the coast, and thus present more precipitous 
flanks towards the sea. From the coast lagoons and dunes the horizon is bounded 
by a long line of lofty crests penetrating into the zone of clouds and vapour. 

The line of these crests and of the so-called bufas, or jagged heights, develops a 
continuous chain at a mean distance of about 60 miles from the sea. Several of 
its summits exceed 10,000 feet, while the Cumbre Pimal, in the Sierra del Nayarit, 
attains an altitude of 12,350 feet. But farther soiith the outer terrace of the 
Mexican tableland, and the mountains dominating it, lose all apparent regularity 
In their general outlines. The groups, connected together by passes at diiferent 
elevations, have no longer a uniform direction, and here the loftiest ridges, all 
noted for their extremely rich argentiferous deposits, lie more to the east ; south- 
wards the whole system Is Interrupted by the deep valley of the Rio Lerma. 

Immediately opposite this breach and about 60 miles seaward rises the insular 
chain of the Tres Marias and the San Juanito, which are disposed in the direction 
from north-west to south-east, parallel with the main continental range. In these 
Islands the highest cone, 2,430 feet, has been the scene of volcanic eruptions. 

Nor were volcanoes formerly absent In the section of the Sierra Madre which 
lies to the north of the Rio Lerma. In several places are still seen lava fields, 
some destitute of vegetation, others forest- clad. Here also rise mounds of scorloe 
and ashes, and the BreSa district especially, which stretches south of Purango, is a 


cliaos of crevasses and lava streams, a ma/jxd-s, or " bad land," very difficult to 
traverse. But aU the underground furnaces have long been extinguished north 
of the Lerma valley. South of this parting-line begins the region of inland 
lava seas, indicated by the chain of burning mountains which here runs obliquely 
across Mexico from ocean to ocean. Some of the cones are quite isolated, or else 
rise above detached groups, while others lie on the very axis of the main ranges. 

Near its Pacific extremitj% the Ceboruco or Ahuacatlan peak (7,140 feet) is 
the first eminence in this igneous belt. It forms part of a chaotic group almost 
entirely separated from the Sierra JIadre by the valleys and passes commanded by 
the city of Guadalajara. In 1870 it entered on a state of \'iolent eruption, and 
since then it has never ceased to emit gases and igneous vapours. Ceboruco is the 
centre of numerous craters, of which the two largest, one extinct, the other still 
smoking, are each 1,000 feet deep. They lie close together, being separated only 
by a narrow ridge formed of cones in juxtaposition. 

Farther south Colima, which also ejects vapours, j^resents in its collective 
phenomena a general analogy to Ceboruco. Despite its great elevation (12,800 
feet) this superb cone is merely the southern spur of a still more elevated 
porphyry mass, which the natives call the Vokan de Nieve (" Snowy Volcano "), 
although its crest does not terminate in a crater. The depression seen on the 
summit, usually supposed to be an extinct crater, appears to be nothing more than 
an amphitheatre formed of two ravines whose torrents descend to the Pacific. 

On the slopes of the Volcan de Nieve the upper limit of the forest zone stands 
no higher than 13,000 feet. Here begin the snows which are permanent through- 
out the year on all the bare parts of the crest. From the terminal point (14,300 
feet), the mountain slopes southwards towards the Yolcan del Fuego, which is 
separated by a rocky rampart from the neighbouring colossus. 

At Colima eruptions, rare during the last century, have in recent j'ears become 
more frequent. In 1869, 1872, 1873, and 1885, masses of ashes have been 
ejected, and borne by the atmospheric currents as far as San Luis-Potosi, 280 
miles to the north-east. Lavas have also been discharged during these dis- 
turbances, but nearly all have flowed from lateral cones, the " Sons of Colima," 
and from eminences scattered over the surrounding valleys. 

The Calabozo lagoon, whose deep and still unfathomed chasm discharges its 
waters through the Rio San Antonio at the northern foot of the mountain, appears 
to be an old crater filled by sulphurous springs. Situated on the very edge of 
the Mexican uplands and ravined at its base by enormous barrancas leading down 
to the plain, Colima occupies the centre of a vast horizon embracing lofty summits, 
plains, and the distant ocean. Eastwards the view reaches as far as the glittering 
peak of snowy Popocatepetl. Under the same latitude as the twin crests of Colima 
stands the wooded Tancitaro volcano (12,100 foot) ; but it lies much nearer to the 
main range, of which it is merely a southern offshoot. Tancitaro, which commands 
a distant view of the Pacific, is connected with the Cerro Patamban (12,400 feet) 
by the long jagged ridge of the Cerro Periban. 

Farther east the almost isolated JoruUo (Joruyo) volcano rises to a height of 


4,330 feet iu the midst of a iiia/j)ais, ov jjcd regal, a stony tract of lavas enclosed on 
the south by the Eio Jlexcala. Since the description given bj' Humboldt, this is 
one of the Mexican volcanoes of which most frequent mention is made. JoruUo 
is commonly supposed to have made its aj^pearance one night towards the end of the 
year 1759 in the middle of cultivated plains, beneath which long rumbling sounds 
had been heard for months before the upheaval. Tradition relates that the Cutza- 
randiro cones, 50 miles to the east, had been in a disturbed state some years before 
the appearance of Jondlo. Hence the theory that the underground forces opened 
for themselves another vent by creating the new volcano, and since that time the 
former craters would seem to have been completely closed. 

This legend, although supported by the immense authority of Humboldt's 
name, is confirmed by no trustworthy documents, and is, moreover, at variance 
with the facts since that time observed in every part of the world. One day nothing 
was visible except a plain covered with sugar-cane and indigo plantations waving 
in the breeze ; next morning six large cones over 1,650 — according to Burkart, 
1,230 — feet high, presented themselves to the astonished gaze of thepeasantrj'-,who 
had takeB refuge on the surrounding hills. The whole district was reported to 
have become, so to say, " embossed," and raised by the molten matter, while the 
semi-liquid rocks, pierced in the centre by a funnel, were upheaved above their 
former level to form the cone which is now visible. 

Such an hypothesis of a vertical thrust of the primitive soil is no less absurd 
than another local statement regarding the vengeance of certain Capuchin friars, 
who had not been entertained with sufficient honour by the proprietors of the 
hacienda, and who on their departure consigned the whole district to the de- 
vouring flames. The formation of Jorullo, like that of all other volcanoes, must 
in fact be attributed to the ashes and lavas accumulating with each successive 

Since 1860 Jorullo has been quiescent, or, at least, subject only to slight dis- 
turbances. From the crater, a yawning chasm over a mile in circuit and 650 feet 
deep, nothing is now emitted except Light vapours, which are mostl}' invisible, 
condensing into fog or mist only before rainy weather. The slopes of the mountain 
have been partly overgrown with forests, in which trees of the tropical are inter- 
mingled with plants of the temperate zone. Even the hoi-nitos, or " little 
furnaces," innumerable cones a few yards high, dotted round the base, have also 
for the most part ceased to discharge jets of vapour. At the time of Humboldt, 
the temperature of these vapours was 205° F. ; since then it has gradually fallen 
to from 120° to 140° F., within which limits it oscillates at present. The waters 
have also cooled down in the Eio San Pedro and in another rivulet, which was 
evaporated or covered by a bed of lava during the eruption, but which reappeared 
in hot springs several miles from the volcano. 

All these volcanoes, Colima, Tancitaro, Jorullo, and the extinct Tasco, far to 
the east, but still north of the Rio Mexcala, are disposed in a line parallel with the 
axis of the Sierra Madre, which runs at a mean distance of about 36 miles north- 
wards. But this great range is itself composed almost exclusively of old or recent 



eruptive rocks, between whose foldings are enclosed lacustrine basins wluch are 
still flooded, and in which quaternary alluvia have been deposited. 

San Andres or Tajimaroa, a group of volcanoes lying east of Morelia, still 
presents on one of its summits a funnel filled with boiling water, and emitting 
copious sulphurous vapours. These vapours change to sulphates the argillaceous 

Scale 1 : 180,000. 





M^^i^r: y\Mf^S&^^ 


' i^^^'.. 


• West oF GreenwIcVi 


3 Miles. 

clays of the surrounding district, and thus are periodically undermined the huts of 
the workmen occupied in collecting the mud richly charged with sulphur. 

The Cerro de las Humaredas, another trachytic cone, owes its name to its 
abundant f umaroles. Near it springs a geyser from the very summit of a siliceous 
cone gradually deposited by the jets of boiling water. One of the craters, over 
13,200 feet high, takes the name of Chillador, or " Whistler," from the hissing 
sound of the vapours escaping from its mouth. In 1872 a series of violent earth- 
quakes was followed by the appearance of a new ChUlador by the side of the other. 

-.i f 


.11 1 I J I mill mil I imiii an i iii i 


North of Morelia and of the great Late Cuitzeo, another group, consistino' of 
seven volcanoes, is disposed in amphitheatrical foim round the depression known as 
the " Vale " of Santiago. The craters of Alberca and of another of these cones are 
filled with a slightly alkaline water like that of the surrounding district. The 
local centre of underground heat is probably extinguished, but farther north the 
geysers and jets of hot mud attest the continued action of the subterranean forces. 

Xinantecatl, that is, the "Xaked Lord," usually known as the Nevado de 
ToHca, rises almost due south of the city from which it takes its name. It is one of 
the highest peaks in Mexico, being over 15,000 feet, or, according to Heilprin and 
Baker, who ascended it in 1890, at least 14,700 feet, that is about the height of 
Monte Eosa. The S^evado, with its gentle and regular incline, is easily scaled ; 
the traveller need not follow the example of Humboldt, who kept to the beaten 
path made by the woodmen across the pine and fir forests, which become more open 
towards the summit, where the trees are replaced by scrub and a short grass 
growing in the fissures of the porphvry rocks near the rim of the crater. 

Precisely at this point lies the parting line between vegetation and the per- 
manent snows, which here persist on the northern slope even in September and 
October, the two months of greatest evaporation. In the depression of the summit 
two basins are flooded with fresh water, and after the rains meres are formed in 
the neighbouring cavities. The melting snows and rains are sufficiently copious 
to prevent the two tarns from running dry at any season of the year. Thev have 
an average extent of SO acres, and fishes of a peculiar species are found in the 
chief reservoir, which is over 30 feet deep. The water is very pure and cold, 
43° F., and it has been proposed to supply the city of Toluca from this sotirce. 

From Xevado is seen on the eastern horizon the distant Cerro de Ajusco 
(13,700 feet), which does not quite reach the snow-Hne. The lava streams from 
this cone descend almost to the very gates of Mexico. Other less elevated and 
now extinct cones, such as Culiacan and Ozumba, are disposed without apparent 
order in the sections of the main range which stretches south of the capital. 

Popocatepetl, the " Smoking Mountain," most famous of the Mexican volca- 
noes and one of those whose names most frequently occur in geographical works, 
was long wrongly supposed to be the culminating point of Iforth America, 
although it is probably not even the highest peak in Mexico itself. The first 
person known to have ascended Popocatepetl was the Spanish captain, Diego de 
Ordaz. So early as the year 1519, while Cortes with his little band of conquerors 
was still at Tlaxcala, this daring explorer penetrated into the Aztec countrv in 
order to reach the summit of the " mountain of Guaxocingo," and to learn the secret 
{saber el secreio) of the giant, whose crests were wreathed in dense vapotir. Put 
it is uncertain whether he reached the top, Cortes stating that he was arrested by 
the snows, while Bemal Diaz asserts that he really got as far as the crater. 

During the period of the conquest, ntimerous Spanish soldiers, and even Fran- 
ciscan friars, ascended to the crater, and special mention is made of Montano and 
Lamos, who came hither in quest of sulphur for the manufacture of gunpowder. 
Since the beginning of the present centurj-, the mountain has been frequently 


scaled. The ascent is in fact relatively easy, thanks to the regularity of the slope, 
although the porphyritic mass of Popocatepetl exceeds Mont Blanc by about 1,900 
feet. The mean of eleven measurements yields 17,830 feet, oi', according to Ponce 
de Leon, 17,780 for the Mexican giant, which is consequently at least 820 feet 
lower than its North- American rival. Mount St. Elias. 

On the east slope the lower limit of the permanent snows is at 14,250 feet. 
Here all the rugosities of the surface are filled with snow, which round the rim of 
the crater is transformed to a crj'stalline mass 8 or 10 feet thick ; thus are deve- 
loped a few small glaciers fissured by little crevasses. About the east foot of the 
mountain are met a large number of scattered boulders, which should with great 
probability be attributed to the action of much larger glaciers, which formerly 
descended from the summits. 

Above the crater rise two chief summits, the Pico Mayor and the Espinazo 
del Diablo, which rest on a sharp ridge where the explorer has to maintain his 
equilibrium between two profound chasms. On one side the view stretches east- 
wards to the hot lands dominated by the plateaux ; on the other yawns the crater, 
a cavity over half a mile in circumference, and 250 feet deep. 

This cavity is filled with snow ; but jets of gas, which frequently shift their 
place, melt the white mass round about the respimdero, that is, the orifice of the 
crater. Thus are revealed from a distance those patches of a yellow gold colour, 
which indicate the position of the sulphur deposits. The vokaneros, who almost 
daily come in search of the sulphur, are let down to the bottom of the crater in a 
large basket, which is lowered and raised by means of a windlass erected on the 
brim of the chasm. The annual yield is estimated at about fifty tons, and the 
mineral is supposed to accumulate at the rate of a ton a day. A spring welling up 
on the bed of the crater fills a lagoon, whose waters, according to report, reappear 
in thermal fountains at the base of the mountain. Eruptions are rare, and have 
been less violent during the present century than at the time of the conquest. 

North of Popocatepetl rises the less elevated but still lofty Ixtaccihuatl, or 
" White Woman " (16,300 feet), which, however, is not a volcano, although much 
dreaded by the natives, and made the subject of numerous popular legends. The 
mantle of perennial snows clothing its craterloss porphyritic cone is nowhere 
pierced by any fumeroles. According to the Aztecs the two mountains were 
divinities, Ixtaccihuatl being the wife of Popocatepetl, which now serves as a 
meteorological indicator for the populations dwelling at its base. When the vapours 
are a dense black colour, and roll away from the crater in great wreaths in the direc- 
tion of the north, rain may be expected. But when the smoke sets southwards it 
is a sign of approaching frosts and cold weather. If again the column of vapour 
assumes a vertical direction, it is regarded as a forecast of high winds, or else of 
earthquakes. Two or three hours before a thunderstorm bursts over the plain, 
the crater is seen to discharge at intervals quantities of ashes and pumice. 

The two sister mountains which dominate the valley of Mexico stand at the 
angle of the triangular bastion which is formed by the central plateaux of Ana- 
huao. In the neighbourhood of Tehuacan the Western and Eastern Sierra Madres 


cross their axes, and from this junta, or converging point, the two systems are 
merged in one as far as the isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

But if the "Western Sierra Madre seems to be abruptly terminated at a short 
distance to the east of Mexico by a rampart of mountains belonging to another 
system of crests, the Tolcanic zone is continued far beyond Popocatepetl by the 
eruptive character of the prevailing formations. MaUntzin or ilalinche, the 
Matlalcueyatl of the ancient Aztecs^ which is called also Dona ilarina in honour 
of Cortes' young Indian interpretress, rises in isolated majesty to a height of 
13,550 feet in the middle of the Tlaxcala plateau. According to the local legend 
MaKntzin was the daughter of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, and had wandered 
far and wide before finding a favourable resting place. 

Other large eruptive cones stand on the verge of the uplands, on the border 
i-ange belonging to the Eastern Sierra Madre. In this range the two loftiest sum- 
mits are the volcanoes of Cofre de Perote and Orizaba, both of which are visible 
from the sea. The Cofre owes its name of " coffer " to the quadrilateral form of 
its summit (13,500 feet), which is often wrapped in aerial shrouds, looking like a 
vast sarcophagus raised aloft. The Cofre, which was the Xauhcampa-tepetl or 
" Four-ridged Mountain " of the Aztecs, is surrounded by a malpak of lavas, on 
the west side of which lies the famous Chinacamote cavern. This natural curiosity, 
said by the natives to be six or seven leagues long, is of difficult access, owing to 
the huge blocks that have fallen from the roof. 

Parasitic craters, which are now extinct, open on the flanks of the Cofre, and 
from its base long lava streams descend seawards. Even beyond the tertiary and 
quaternary deposits which overlie the older formations of the seaboard, a chain of 
reefs, derived from ancient eruptions, and known as the Boquilla de Piedras, is 
disposed in a line with the shore. Macuiltepec, or the "Five Moimtains," on the 
slopes of which stands the town of Jalapa, is also an extinct crater now filled with 

Orizaba, which overlooks the city of the same name some 30 miles south of 
the Cofre, exceeds Popocatepetl in altitude. According to the lowest estimates 
it is at least 17,500 feet high ; some observers raise it to 17,860, while Perez gives 
it an elevation of 18,400 feet, or about 50 more than Humboldt's calculation. 

Orizaba's Aztec name of Citlal-tepetl, or " Star Mountain," may perhaps be 
due to the fact that the summit of its cone is seen glittering amid the stars, unless 
it refers to the burning lavas formerly discharged from its crater. Xo mountain 
presents a more imposing appearance in the perfect symmetry of its outlines, and 
the beautv of its snowr crest towerinty above the verdant belt of its forests and the 
ever-shifting clouds of the lower atmospheric strata. 

The lower slopes are easily ascended, but the topmost cone presents great 
difficulties, so that but few travellers have succeeded in hewing a flight of steps 
in the higher snows, and thus reaching the ashes and scoriae of the great crater. 
This culminating point was first reached in 1848 by Eaynolds and Maynard, who 
were serving in the American invading army. Three years afterwards Doignon 
followed in their footsteps, and to him we owe the first description of the crest, with 



its three craters and intervening walls. The central oval-shaped cavity is over a 
quarter of a mile in circuit and from 120 feet to 130 feet deep. 

The last great eruption of Orizaha appears to have taken place towards the 
middle of the sixteenth century. About the middle of the present century vapours 
and sulphurous jets were still ejected from the crumbling rocks, which were 
peeling away like the plaster- work of some old ruia ; but these almost transparent 
vapours wore seldom visible from the lower regions. Yet an inner wall could be 
seen, disposed obliquely in such a way that its slope was confused with that of the 
mountain itself. In 1878 the igneous forces were entirely extinguished, and the 
crater is now usually filled with snow, which is regularly collected as on Popocatepetl. 

Fig. 12. — Oeizaba Peak. 

Scale 1 : 500,000. 

Rancho JdTiiipa 



Parasitic cones arc dotted over the slopes of Orizaba, as well as on the surround- 
ing plains. These cones, from 400 to 500 feet high, resemble huge barrows, and 
in fact are said by the natives to be funeral mounds erected over the remains of 
ancient kings. All must have long been extinct, for they are now clothed with 
forest growths, and the craters themselves have become filled with a dense vegeta- 
tion. Nevertheless a still active crater Ues in the Derrumbaderos group (10,300 
feet) on the crest of a volcanic cone north-west of Tepetitlan. 

Orizaba is not the terminal cone in the Mexican igneous zone ; bevoud it an 
isolated volcano, Tuxtla, 4,950 feet high, stands on the seashore near the extreme 
curve formed by the Gulf of Mexico between the mainland proper and the Yucatan 
peninsula. Tuxtla lies 135 miles in a straight line from Orizaba, and it is separated 
from the Sierra Madre system by extensive tracts of alluvial soil watered by several 
streams. In lG64it discharged some molten lavas, and was then quiescent till the 


tremendous outburst of 1793, when tlie ejected scoria) were said to lie wafted in one 
direction as far as Vera- Cruz and Perote, in another all the way to Oaxaca. The 
disturbances have been renewed in recent times. 

According to the imanimous testimony of the natives the two volcanoes of Orizaba 
and Tuxtla " hold converse together " by means of mufSed rumblings like the sound 
of distant thunder. The headlands of lava projected seawards by Tuxtla form the 
eastern extremity of the winding volcanic zone, whose central axis, about 730 miles 
long, coincides very nearly with the 19th parallel of latitude, and is continued far 
into the Pacific westwards to the Hawaii Archipelago. The uninhabited Revilla- 
Gigedo islands, which lie on the track of this conjectural volcanic fault, are 
probably of igneous origin ; Poulett Scrope mentions the fact that vessels navigating 
those waters frequently find the surface covered with floating pumice. 

The region of the Mexican volcanoes also coincides with the principal zone 
of earthquakes, whose undulations are usually propagated in the direction from 
east to west in a line w ith that of the burning mountains. The province of Jalisco 
especially is much exposed to these seismic movements. Buildings erected on 
granite or porphj'ry rocks suffer more than others from such disturbances. 

The Eastern Sierra Madre, whose culminating peaks are the Cofre and Citlal- 
tepetl, forms, like the western system, a southern continuation of highlands lying 
within the United States frontier. The parallel ridges of the Apache Mountains, 
which arc disposed in the direction from south-west to north-east, and which arc 
pierced by the gorges of the Pio Bravo, rcapj^ear on the right or Mexican side of 
that river. Here they develop a long lino of Jurassic limestone ramparts running 
south-eastwards and presenting precipitous slopes whose sharp crests are here and 
there pierced by a few eruptive cones. 

These crests do not exceed an average altitude of about 3,500 feet ; but like 
the western range they rise gradually southwards, and in the neighbourhood of 
Saltillo some of the summits already attain an elevation of G,600 feet. In these 
regions of north Mexico the two converging eastern and western sierras are not 
yet connected by any transverse ridges, but are, on the contrary, separated by vast 
plains and by basins of quaternary alluvial matter which were formerly deposited 
by extensive inland seas, and which under the action of the winds have since 
assumed the form of elevated dunes. Here they take the name of llanos, like the 
grassy savannahs of Yenezuela ; but in Mexico these old lacustrine beds have a 
different A'ogctation, and thej'- arc moreover divided into distinct depressions hj 
small ridges of volcanic or other hills rising above the plains. These ridges are 
for the most part disposed in the direction from north-west to south-east, parallel 
with the two great border ranges, and thus form narrow gulches, ravines or canons, 
which are traversed by rivulets and highways. 

One of these steppes is the Llano de los Cristianos, which occupies some thousand 
square miles south of the Pio del Iforte and its affluent, the Rio Conchos, and which 
is divided into a multitude of secondary plains by numerous sierras and chains of 
Kills. Farther south the Llano de los Gigantes, so called from the remains of 
gigantic animals found in the clays and sands formerly supposed to be those of 



ancient giants, is far more level, its uniform surface being broken only by a few 
knolls of low elevation. South-eastwards it develops into the Bolson or "Purse" 
of Mapimi, a vast sandy and saHne basin, for the most part desert, about 40,000 
square miles in extent. The Bolson do Mapimi is the Sahara of Mexico. 

South of this depression the ground rises, and the two border ranges are here 
connected by intermediate highlands and the crests of a mountainous plateau. 
South-east of Saltillo a first group of summits attains a height of 8,450 feet ; 
farther south a peak in the mining district of Catorce exceeds 9,000 feet; the crest 
of the Veta Grande in Zacatecas maintains an altitude of 9,200 feet ; the Cerro de 
la Cruz, near Aguascalientes, is said to be exactly 10,000 feet high ; the Gigante, 
or " Giant," near Guanajuato, exceeds it by 850 feet, while a neighbouring summit, 

Fig. 13. — Volcanoes of Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 11,000,000. 

West op bnernwich 

ISO Miles. 

despite its name of Llanitos or " Little Plains," approaches 11,500 feet. Lastly, all 
the northern part of the states of Queretaro and Hidalgo is occupied by a chaos of 
peaks and cones, some of which are distinguished by their fantastic outlines. Such 
is the Mamanchota (about 10,000 feet), the " Organos " of Actopan, so named 
from its porphyrj' towers disposed like the gigantic pipes of an organ. 

Owing to the sporadic disposition of the mountain masses scattered over the 
plateau, they may almost everywhere be easily turned without having to be crossed. 
It was thus that the migrating tribes and conquering hordes were able to advance 
southwards by following the natural routes winding round Malinche and Popoca- 
tepetl, and meandering amid the heights of Hidalgo, Queretaro, and Guanajuato. 

On the other hand the escarpments of the plateau are in many places extremely 
difficult to scale, and especially to turn horizontally, owing to the deep barrancas 
excavated in parallel lines along the slopes of the hills. In the districts where 
pumice and light scoriaj are the prevailing formations, the running waters have 



scooped out enormous gorges hundreds of yards deep, which converge in still larger 
ravines before reaching the level of the plains. The best known of these barrancas 
arc those of the sierras of Tepic, of the Colima and Orizaba volcanoes and neigh- 
bouring highlands. Sometimes a whole day is required to reach a village which 
may be seen perched on a terrace only a few miles distant ; but in the inter, 
vening space the traveller has perhaps to cross four or five deep troughs, whose 
crumbling slopes are scored by dangerous zigzag tracks. In some of the older 
barrancas the slopes are entirely concealed by a dense vegetation. 

But while nature is destroying in one place it is building up in another. 
The plateaux, the isolated mountains, and even the volcanoes of comparatively 

Tig- U.— iGNEOtra Reoions axd Volcakoes of Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 12,000,000. 

Active Volcanoes. Eruptive Rocks. Sedimentary Rocks. Extinct Volcanoes. 
The blank spaces have not yet been thoroughly surveyei 
— ISO Miles. 

recent geological date, as well as the flanks of giants such as Popocatepetl, are 
found to be covered with an argillaceous or marly layer to an average depth of from 
15 to 30 feet. These layers are composed entirely of dust brought by the remolinos 
depolvo, little whirlwinds rising at intervals on the plateaux, "like movable 
minarets, disappearing and reappearing incessantly." But this dust itself, which 
now completely clothes the hill-sides, can come only from other formations of 
recent origin, from the so-called tcpcMc, a clay detached by the rains from the 
rocks, and elsewhere deposited in the form of fine alluvial matter. 

South of the uplands, lying between the two border ranges, the surface of the 
plateaux is occupied by a series of plains, the beds of old lakes, or inland seas. 
One of these is the Bajio, a long sinuous depression which winds for about 125 

VOL. xvir. D 



miles along the base of the Guanajuato Mountains, and which is covered with a 
friable black clay, resulting from the disintegration of the basalt rocks. 

In these regions, comprised in the triangular space which is enclosed by the 
two converging sierras, the mean elevation of the pedestal exceeds 6,600 feet, and 
here nearly all the towns stand at this altitude above the sea. Morelia, situated 
in a low valley at the northern foot of the volcanic range, lies only about 200 feet 
lower. Toluca is 8,500 feet, the neighbouring village of Tlaluepantla 9,180 above 
the sea-level, and Mineral del Monte, in the province of Hidalgo, 6-5 feet lower. 
Lastly, the farmstead of Tlamecas, which is inhabited throughout the year, lies 

.<5cale I : 430n,000. 

"'y^^^f?^ J\^a7«^^,,,(/^>^ r/ 

C^ ^^£ 


^', -y' 


, 120 Miles. 

on the flanks of Popocatepetl at an altitude of 12,560 feet, an altitude at which 
the natives of the lower regions sometimes find it difficult to live. 

The uplands, which form a south-eastern extension of the Anahuac plateau, 
present no kind of symmetry in their general design. They may be regarded as 
the remains of an ancient plateau carved into irregular masses by the running 
waters. These waters have eroded the rocks on both slopes, leaving erect the 
harder masses, which form irregular ridges disposed in various directions, some 
parallel with, others transverse to the border ranges. By the old Aztecs, these 
highlands were called Mixtlan, or " Cloud Land," and the Spaniards still call 
them Mixteca Alia, that is, L^plands of the Mixtecs, or " Cloud-dwellers." 

North of Oaxaca, the Cerro San Felipe del Agua, which may be regarded as 



belonging to the central axis of the mountain region, attains a height of 10,300 
feet ; but the culminating point is the Zampoal-tejwtl, which lies on a secondary 
branch, and which, according to Garcia Cubas, exceeds 11,200 feet. From its 
summit a view is commanded both of the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. 

South of these irregular uplands, which form the fractured stem of the central 
chain, the Sierra del Sur, a more continuous and better-defined range, stretches 
south-eastwards along the Pacific coast. This range, whicb is also sometimes called a 
Sierra Madre, is said to roach an altitude of 9,200 feet in the Cimaltepec district, 







Popoc^t^p^ -p^Ori^^b^ 


ti. cmpba/Iephs 


Cumhre ^ 


CHihu3^lua Zacalecos 

Fresnillo. • .Apam 
Gwanajuato, 'PuebU 
OJrVngo' " ■ Moreira"« ' S.C.-1sl5bar ■ 

. SanLu.s" "Oueretapo 

Aguascalientes .TeJ,uacsn 

P I I - • .Oaxaca 

■^ Jalapa. 

•Santa-Crui ■ -Oo^aba 


Collma* Monterey .S. Andres Tu«tla 
Vera-Cruz. Merlda. 

no- West oF Greer^wlcV. -SO* 

south of Oaxaca. Near Juquila, on the sea-coast, stands an isolated headland, tlic 
extinct Chacahua volcano, Mhose crater is now filled with sulphur. Another 
cone, one of the ten still active volcanoes in Mexico, lies farther east near Pochutla. 
Before 1870, when it suddenly ejected scorioc and vapours, it was supposed to 
be extinct, all memory of any previous explosions having died out. 

In the isthmus of Tehuantepec the Mexican ranges are continued on the 
Pacific side by a series of uplands which are crossed by six passes at a low eleva- 
tion. The lowest, which takes the name of Portillo de Tarifa from a neighbouring 


village, IS only 1,000 feet high. Most of tlio high grovmcls skirting the plains of 
the isthmus aifect the form of " tables " ; seen from the surrounding mountains, 
they merge almost entirely with the lowlands. 

According to Spear, a geologist attached to one of the numerous expeditions 
that have studied the isthmus of Tehuantepec, the terraced formations consist 
partly of cretaceous rocks deposited at a time when the Atlantic and Pacific 
Oceans were here connected by a broad channel. After their upheaval the 
flanks of these chalk cliffs became overlaid on both sides by more recent tertiary 
and quaternary formations. The land still continues to encroach insensibly on 
the ocean ; the Pacific Coast, formed of late alluvial matter, is continually 
advancing seawards, while the lagoons along the shore are gradually drying up. 
In the isthmus of Tehuantepec low-lying tracts occupy a larger space relatively to 
the whole region than in any other part of Mexico. 

The two oceans were also at one time connected farther north by another 
marine passage, and the so-called " Valley " of Mexico in the very centre of the 
Anahuac tableland is a remnant of this old branch of the sea. Towards the close 
of Mesozoic times the marine waters winded over these lands which at present 
stand over 6,500 feet above sea-level, and the volcanoes now surmounting them 
had not yet discharged their lava streams. At this epoch the contour line of the 
Gulf of Mexico also lay far more to the west than in our days. The rich silver 
mines are nearly all situated in the two Sierra Madres north of the " Valley," 
and are disposed along certain definite lines. Thus their main axis appears to run 
due north-west and south-east between Batopilas and Guanajuato, and the famous 
argentiferous lodes of Zacatecas, Fresnillo, Sombrcrete, and Durango all lie on or 
near this axis ; the lodes themselves are disposed in the same direction. 

Rivers and Lakes. 

The form of the Mexican plateau with its narrow escarpments, and its border 
ranges disposed parallel with the seaboards, combined with the dry climate of the 
northern and central regions, has prevented the development of any large fluvial 
systems with extensive ramifying arteries. Of all Mexican rivers the most impor- 
tant, if not for its volume at least for its length and for the part that it plaj's as 
the political frontier-line between the Anglo-Saxon and Hispano- American repub- 
lics for over 720 miles of its course, is the Rio Bravo, or Rio Grande del Norte. The 
Mexican part of its basin comprises about 94,000 square miles, or one-third of the 
whole area of its drainage ; but it receives scarcely any copious or perennial streams. 
Most of their beds are dry except during the rainy season, and their waters, ren- 
dered saline by lodging in shallow basins, give a brackish taste to the Bravo itself. 

The largest affluent on the Mexican side is the Rio Conchos, whose headstreams 
are fed for a distance of over 200 miles north and south by the eastern slopes of 
the great Sierra Madre between the States of Sonora and Chihuahua. From the 
Eastern Sierra Madre flows the Rio Salado, or " Salt River," whose very name 
indicates a prolonged period of drought. In the same range rises the Rio San 



Fig. IT. — Tajiaulipas Coast Lagoons. 
Scale 1 : 2,500,000. 

Juan, -nliicli is formed of the numerous sparkling streams that water the more 
fertUe districts of Coahuila and Nuevo-Leon. One of these streams towards the 
southern extremity of the basin is the Puente de Dios, which plunges from a 
height of 200 feet into a profound chasm 70 or 80 feet below one of those natural 
causeways which are here called " God's 

The alluvial matter brought down by 
the Eio Bravo has caused the land to 
encroach far beyond the normal coastline ; 
but it has failed to fill up the coast 
lagoons, so that here is de^'eloped a 
double shoreline ; the sandy strips, and 
the seaboard proper. Elongated back- 
waters, which continue those fringing the 
coast of Texas roimd the north-western 
shores of the Gulf of Mexico, are disposed 
parallel with the sea in a continuous 
chain, broken only by the alluvial banks 
which have been deposited bj' coast 
streams along: both sides of their chan- 


These inner waters, which have a 
total length of about 200 miles, commu- 
nicate with the open sea only by narrow 
passages, which shift their position with 
the storms and rains. The water also 
varies in its saline contents according 
to the freshets of the coast streams and 
the irruptions of the sea. The lagoons 
are gradually silting up with the sediment 
deposited by the two little coast streams, 
the San Fernando or Tigre, and La Ma- 
rina, the old E,io de las Palmas. 

South of La Marina and of a few other 
rivulets, the Tamesi and the Pauuco, which 
formerly flowed in separate channels, are ^ 
now united in a district studded with 
lagoons and swamps above the bar of 
Tampico ; hence the name of Tampico 

sometimes given to the two united rivers. The Panuco, the more copious of the 
two, rises north of the Mexican Valley, and even receives some contributions 
through the Huehuetoca cutting; under the names of Tula or Montezuma it 
describes a vast semicircular bend towards the west across the Hidalgo uplands, 
beyond which it collects the various streams flowing from Queretaro. One of 

§ ^ 


Oto 10 

10 to 23 

23 to 50 

50 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 30 Jliles. 



these disappears near JaliDan in profound caverns about 2 miles long, wliich 
like the arch at Nuevo-Leon also bears the name of Puente de Dios. In these 
subterranean galleries human bodies have been found covered with stalactites. 

Another of these tributaries forms the famous Falls of Regla, where the water 
rushes over a breach opened in a cluster of basalt columns. On both sides the 

Scale 1 : 60,000. 

94° 25- West op Gree h 

94° P5' 





16 to 32 

32 Feet .ind 

_ 2,200 YaiJs. 

columns are festooned with wreaths of lianas, ■nhile the white waters are broken 
into cascades, between which rise the hexagonal groups of bluish rock. 

The united Panuco and Tamesi have together almost completel}' drained the 
chains of lagoons formerly fringing this part of the coast ; but south of the 
Tampico river a small inland sea, the Laguna de Tamiahua, still exists, being 
2)rotectcd by a narrow cordon of sands from the surf. This rampart does not take 
the slightly concave form presented by most of the other sandy strips gradually 



formed by the action of the waves at the entrance of the inlets along the coast. 

Fi?. 19. — The Begll Falls. 

On the contrary it projects some 2o miles iu a convex cuive at the Cabo Eoso, or 


" Red Cape," a form evidently due to the presence of a group of rocks or reefs 
which has served as a support for the two converging beaches. 

In many pLices the shore is covered with dunes, which have been graduidlv 
raised above the beach, and which drift inland under the influence of the pvc- 
vailing trade winds. Thus the " Villa E,ica de la Vera Cruz," founded by Cortes, 
near Zempoala, is now to a great extent covered by dunes of shifting sands. 

The theory has been advanced that these dunes may perhaps have been 
raised since the coast reefs, which formerly stood some 6 or 7 feet above the 
surface, were removed by the builders engaged on the fortress of San Juan d'Ulua 
and the town walls. But this view is at variance with the fact that dunes even 
higher than those of Vera Cruz have been formed on many other parts of the 
coast, and especially near Alvarado ; one of the sandhills in the vicinity of Anton 
Lizardo is no less than 265 feet high. 

Beyond this point the Alvarado estuary, near the southern inlet of the Gulf of 
Mexico, receives a large number of converging streams, the largest of which are 
the Papaloapam, or "Butterfly River," and the San Juan. They are both very 
copious, thanks to the heavy rainfall produced by the trade winds on the northern 
slopes of the Oaxaca uplands. 

The Coatzacoalcos, or " Snake River," which flows from the opposite side of 
the Tuxtla volcano, and which had already been discovered by Grijalva before the 
expedition of Cortes, is also an extremely copious stream, regard being had to its 
length of about 220 miles. Its catchment basin is confined to the alluvial plain 
and the amphitheatre of low mountains which form the northern slope of the isth- 
mus of Tehuantepec. Nevertheless, its lower course is no less than 800 or 900 
yards wide ; large vessels after once crossing the bar are able to ascend as far as 
Minatitlan, some 25 mUes from its mouth, while boats reach the village of Suchil, 
near the middle of the isthmus, and over 60 miles from the coast. But at the 
point where the fluvial and marine waters meet there is formed a dangerous sill, 
which, since the time of Cortes' expedition, has always maintained a uniform dejjth 
of from 12 to 14 feet of water. Many vessels have been wrecked at the entrance 
of the river, and it is mainly owing to this danger that engineers have abandoned 
the idea of constructing a ship canal across the isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

On the opposite side the rivers flowing to the Pacific are obstructed by similar 
formations. The large lagoon of Tilema, which lies just south of the narrowest 
part of the isthmus, and towards which converge numerous watercourses, has only 
from 7 to 10 feet of water on its bar, according to the seasons, and it is often inac- 
cessible, even to vessels of light draft. One of the caravals built by Cortes for the 
purpose of surveying the coast was wrecked at this point. 

The mouth of the Rio Tehuantepec, which reaches the coast west of the great 
lagoon, is completely closed by sands for a great part of the year. Shipping has 
then to ride at anchor either in the open roadstead well named La Ventosa, or 
"Windy," or near the dangerous granite reefs of the Morro de Tehuantepec, or 
else far from the alluvial lands of the isthmus in the Salina de Cruz inlet, terminus 
of the railway, and now sheltered by a breakwater. 


Being sldrted by loftier ranges running nearer to the sea, the Pacific side of 
Mexico presents far less extensive low-lying coastlands and secondary beaches than 
the Atlantic side. Nevertheless, even here there are a few coast lagoons, especi- 
ally in the district west of Acapulco. Beyond it the sea receives the waters of 
the Eio Mexcala or de las Balsas, one of the chief Mexican rivers, whose farthest 
sources lie on the southern and some even on the eastern slopes of the volcanic 
range. The Apoyac, its principal headstream, which flows by Puebla, rises on the 
flanks of Ixtaccihuatl and is fed higher up by the snows melted by the thermal 
springs, lower do^'STi by several saline rivulets. 

The Eio de las Balsas, that is, " of the rafts," as indicated by its name, is, to a 
limited extent, navigable along its lower reaches ; above the bar it is accessible to 
small craft, which, higher up, are arrested by rapids, whirlpools, and a high cas- 
cade. For a space of 220 miles there occur no less than 226 obstacles of this sort, 
eddies, rapids, or dangerous reefs. The volume discharged through the two 
mouths of the Mexcala is estimated at 2,500 cubic feet per second. The Rio Tux- 
pam, or de CoKma, and the Aniecas, two less copious streams which reach the 
Pacific farther north, have a mean discharge of 1,100 and 750 cubic feet respectively. 

The Rio Lerma, or Santiago, the Tololotlan of the Indians, is also a considerable 
stream. By the riverain populations it is, in fact, known as the " Rio Grande," 
while the inhabitants of Michoacan call it also Cuitzeo, from the large lake situated 
in their province. It rises in the State of Mexico in the very centre of the Ana- 
huac plateau, and its farthest sources, issuing fi'om undergroimd galleries, descend 
from the Nevado de Toluca down to the twin lake of Lerma, the remains of an in- 
land sea which formerly filled the upper Toluca valley north of the Xevado volcano. 

At its issue from the lake, or rather marshy lagoon, the Lerma stands at the 
great altitude of 8,600 feet, and during its winding north-westerlj- course across 
the plateau, the incline is very slight. In this upland region it is swollen by 
several affluents, some of which, like the main stream itself, flow from lakes dotted 
over the tableland. After completiag half of its course at La Barca, the Lerma is 
stiU over 5,600 feet above sea-level. Here, some 280 miles from its source, it enters 
the large lake Chapala, near its eastern extremity ; but about 12 miles below the 
entrance it again emerges through a fissure on the north side of the lake, and still 
continues to flow throughout its lower course in the same north-westerlv direction. 

Chapala, thus obliquely traversed by the current of the Lerma, is the largest 
lacustrine basin in Mexican territory; but this flooded depression, about 600 
square miles in extent, is very shallow, its mean depth being only 40 feet, and 
the deepest cavities not more than 110 feet. Everywhere, but especially on the 
north and east sides, its blue limpid waters are encircled by an amphitheatre of 
hills, whose slopes are covered with a rich growth of forest trees and lianas. The 
shores of this romantic basin present some of the loveliest scenery in Mexico ; but 
tin recently few travellers ventured to visit these almost uninhabited regions. 

At present a railway runs along the north-east side of the lake, and it has even 
been proposed to found a school of navigation on one of the inlets of the inland sea. 
Other lakelets dotted over the slopes of the moimtains about the western extremity 



of Chapala seem to imply that its basin was formerly far more extensive that at 
present ; at that time it appears to hare discharged its overflow westwards through 
the valley of the river now flowing towards the Bay of Banderas, and some 
engineers have proposed to cut a canal through this old fluvial bed. At the point 
where the outlet was situated lava streams descended from the neighbouring 
heights in prehistoric times. The issue was thus obstructed, and the waters were 
forced to expand into a lake or else considerably to raise their level, and after- 
wards seek a new issue through the lowest breach in the cncii'cling hills. 

Fig. 20. — Laxe CnAPiiA. 
Scale 1 : 1,500,000. 



; 30 Miles. 

These hills are in fact traversed by the Lcrma through a scries of gorges exca- 
vated by erosion in the eruptive rocks. To judge from the extreme irregularity 
of its course, this fluvial valley would appear to be of comparatively recent 
geological date. Its whole bed is disposed like a gigantic flight of irregular steps, 
where the stream develops a continued succession of high cascades and rajjids, all 
the way to the vicinity of the coast. These gorges begin with one of the finest 
cataracts in Mexico, named Juanacatlan from a neighbouring village. Rushing 
over a precipice 65 feet high, the current acquires a tremendous impetus estimated 
at 30,000 horse-power, and it is feared that the neighbourhood of Guadalajara may 
tempt speculators to convert the falls into a series of reservoirs and mill races. 

Desj^ite its abundant discharge, estimated at 4,000 cubic feet per second, the 
Lerma is not navigable, and its bed may in many places be easily forded. But its 
numerous ravines arc scarcely anywhere accessible to wheeled traffic or even pedes- 
trians ; hence roads and tracks have had to be laid do-\vn across the escarpments of 
the surrounding mountains. 

At Santiago, where the Eio Grande at last emerges on the low-lying coastlands, 
it is still 145 feet above sca-lcvel ; it enters the Pacific through a ramifying 



channel just north of San Bias Bay, opposite the Tres Marias islets, which continue 
north-westwards the normal trend of the coast, as indicated by the direction of the 
shore-line south of Cape Corrientes. The alluvial matter washed down by the 
Lerma has filled up a part of the space separating the mainland from this insular 
group ; both northwards and southwards the land is encroaching seaward, and the 


Scale 1 : 860,000. 


Oto 5 

5 Fathoms 
aud upwards. 

Banks exposed 
at low tides. 

=, 18 Miles. 

true coast at the foot of the hills is now washed by shallow lagoons which are pro- 
tected by sandy strips from the open sea. 

North of the Rio Lerma no other copious rivers reach the Pacific within the 
Mexican frontier ; even those which, like the Eio del Fuerte, the Rio Yaqui, and 
the Sonera, have large catchment basins, roll down very little water. This is due 



to the slight rainfall and long droughts, dui'ing which the springs run dry and 
large rivers become impoverished, though their sources lie far inland on the interior 
of the plateau, and like the Rio Yaqui even on the eastern slope of the Sierra 
Madre. Many noisy torrents rushing through foaming cascades over the heights 
of the Sierra Madre fail to reach the sea, and run out in the sands of the lowland 
plains. Others, especially in Lower California, are mere wadies which are seldom 
flooded, and their stony beds are the only roads in the country. To obtain a little 
water oozing up between the shingie deep holes have to be sunk, which are locally 
known by the name of bataques. The old estuaries have become salt pans, and the 
Rio Colorado, whose lower course alone is comprised within Mexican territory, 
resembles the rivers of Souora in the slight amount of its discharge compared with 

Kg. 22.~Closed Basins of Mexico. 
Scale 1 : EO.OOO.OOO. 

Lakes of the closed b.isins. 
—^.^—. C20 Miles. 

the vast extent of its drainage area ; however, this great watercourse is navigable 
for some hundred miles beyond the limits of the common frontier. 

All that part of Mexico which is comprised between the two converging 
border ranges is also too arid for all its watercourses to unite in perennial streams 
and reach the ocean through the Rio Bravo or any other large river. Most of 
them, being too feeble to surmoimt the heights enclosing or intersecting the plains, 
lose their waters in some shallow lagoon which rises or falls with the seasons. All 
the saline basins met in Chihuahua and Coahuila are depressions of this sort formed 
by torrents descending from the mountains. 

Such is the large Guzman lagoon near the Arizona frontier, where is discharged 
the exhausted current of the Rio Casas Grandcs at a lower altitude than the level 


of the neighbouring Eio Bravo del Xorte. Other marshy tracts, like the lagoons 
of Santa Maria and dos Patos, have a similar origin, and the bed of the Bolson de 
Mapimi is also occupied by a closed reservoir, the Tlahualila lagoon. 

Farther south the Rio de Xazas, which is a somewhat copious stream in the 
upper valleys of the Sierra Candela, is arrested in the Laguna del iluerto, while 
the Rio d'Aguanaval does not always reach the Laguna de Parras. In various 
parts of these desert spaces occur numerous ojos or " eyes," that is, springs, some 
thermal, some cold, but nearly aU richly charged with chemical siibstances. 
Several have gradually raised circular margins of siliceous or calcareous deposits 
round their orifice, and in some places these accumulations are high enough to 
form veritable hillocks. Froebel saw a streamlet flowing from a knoll about thirty 
feet high, which had been built up in this way by the water itself. 

In the State of San Luis, where the plateau is already divided by the mountain 
ranges into numerous small basins, there are no extensive lagoons like those of the 
northern provinces ; but this district contains over one hundred small lakes or 
rather ponds, nearly all of which have become saline. The plains are largely 
covered with various kinds of efflorescences, some composed of saltpetre, others 
consisting for the most part of carbonate of soda. They still retain their old Aztec 
name of feqitesquite in Mexico, where the smelters use them in treating the various 
silver and argentiferous lead ores. 

Closed lacustrine basins arc also found in the valleys of the border range south 
of the plateau. Such is the Patzcuaro or "Greater Lake," in the State of Mexico, 
an island-studded depression encircled on all sides by mountaius, and containing a 
slightly brackish, but still potable water. Such is also the Cuitzeo, a deep reser- 
voir which is filled by the river Morelia, whose extremely salt water sterilises all 
the surrounding lands during the inundations. 

But of all these flooded depressions the most remarkable are those from which 
the Mexican plateau takes its name of Anahuac, that is, ^\jial-huatl, " Amid the 
TTaters," a term afterwards extended to all the upland plains of this region. 
These lakes, or rather shallow ponds, are disposed in a chain running north and 
south for a distance of about 46 miles ; but their superficial area varies from year 
to year and from season to season, so that they present different contour lines on 
maps constructed at different periods. 

The southern lakes Xochimilco and Chalco really form only a single sheet of 
water divided into two basins by a narrow dyke. Thanks to the copious streams 
descending from the neighbouring hills this depression has maintained its old 
outlines with little change. A canal, nmning northwards to the city of Mexico, 
discharges the overflow into Lake Texcoco, which occupies the bed of a periodically 
flooded basin from five to seven feet below the level of the capital. The northern 
Lakes San Cristobal, Xaltocan, and Zumpango stand like Xochimilco and Chalco 
above that level. Hence during the inundations, when the rivulets converge 
from the plaiu of Pachuca, descending from basin to basin towards the south, the 
city woiild be threatened with total destruction were the embankments to burst 
which have been constructed below each reservoir. 


From tlic descriptions handed down by the Spanish conquerors, and the 
comparative observations made at different epochs, it is evident that the extent 
and volume of these Mexican lakes have continued to diminish duiing the last 
three hundred and fifty years. The capital was formerly represented as a 
" lacustrine city " surrounded by flooded plains, whereas at present it stands on 
dry land, the lakes no longer occupying even a third of the " vallej'." They 
have also become shallower, and the bed of the Texcoco basin is steadily silting 
up with the sands of the plains moving forward under the action of the winds. 
Its level woiild even be raised and its contents discharged on the city but for the 
excessive evaporation, by which the volume of water is gradually diminishing. 
In 1804, at the time of Humboldt's visit, its depth varied from 10 to 16 feet, but 
in 1885 it had fallen to 5 feet 6 inches in the deepest parts, with an average 
of scarcely more than 2 feet. In 1881 it was even much shallower, little over 
12 inches in many places, and in exceptionally dry years Texcoco, San Cristobal, 
Xaltocan, and Zumpango have been exhausted. In fact this brackish depression 
would have long ago been emptied but for the flow from Chalco and Xochimilco. 

It is generally supposed that the local climate has really become drier since 
the time of the conquest. The disappearance of the forests from the slopes and 
plains would appear to have increased the evaporation by giving greater play to 
the winds, without a corresponding increase, perhaps even a decrease, in the 
rainfall. At present the contents of the lacustrine basins in the valley of Mexico 
are insignificant compared with their volume in a former geological epoch. The 
bed of the old lake, that is, the so-called " valley," consists of quaternary debris, 
sands, clays, pumice, scoriaj, organic remains, superimposed in successive layers 
so thick that they have not yet been pierced by the shafts of an artesian well sunk 
to a depth of 1,270 feet. In some places the calcareous strata of lacustrine origin 
have yielded spring water at a comparatively slight distance from the surface ; but 
elsewhere nothing has been met excejat the quaternary deposits.* 

The chemical composition of the Texcoco waters is itself an indication of their 
gradual concentration iu a continually narrowing basin. Xochimilco and Chalco 
are both fresh-water reservoirs, their contents being constantly renewed ; on the 
opposite side of the valley the other small depressions are also flooded with fresh- 
water. But the central lake is always brackish even after the heavy rains, when 
it covers a considerable surface. 

At a remote geological epoch, when the whole valley of Mexico was filled with 
fresh water, the overflow was discharged through a breach in the mountains 
northwards to the Tula or Montezuma, a headstream of the Panuco river. But 

* Supei-ficial area and relative altitude of the lakes iu the VaUoy of Mexico (18G5) : — 



sq. miles. 


Texcoco . 

. 100 . 

77 below the capital 


. 46 . 

48 above 

>> !. 


. 2.') . 

■ 50 „ 

San Cristobal . 

8 . 

• 63 „ 


Xaltocan . 

. 40 . 

. 68 „ 

)» J» 


. 10 . 

. 165 „ 

Jt 1) 



during the Listoric period, when a city stood on an island in the central lagoon 
at a lower level than several of the separate basins which had formed part of the 
original lake, it became necessary to protect the habitations and temples from 
the iuundations by which the lower part of the depression might have been 

fig-. 23. — Area or the ilExiCAx Laees at ViEiotrs Peeiods. 

Scale 1 : 530,000. 

fcA ^ . 

'','■■ •Aijicn^r: 

• ?5t O I Ve^f^wch 


leoo. 1700. 1S65. Highest Hoods. 

Norlhem Lakes in ISSO. 

. 13 Miles. 

flooded. The Aztecs had accordingly constructed strong defensive works, traces 
of which may still be seen near the cities of Ixtapalapa and Guadalupe. 

Eut these embankments at last yielded to the pressure, and under the Spanish 
rule the capital was for a time exposed to all lacustrine floodings. Towards the 
beginning of the seventeenth century the situation became so dangerous tliat it 


was resolved to run an underground tunnel tHrough the sill which confined the 
flood waters on the north side. The viceroy summoned a vast army of Indian 
labourers in order to complete the work within a single winter or dry season 
from the end of November, 1607, to the middle of May, 1608. The Huehuetoca 
or Nechistongo gallery, as it was called, had a total length of 9,000 yards, and a 
mean height of 12 feet ; but it was not arched and the soil gave way. The outlet 
was completely closed in 16_'9, when a terrific storm burst over the city, flooding 
the streets to a depth of 10 feet. All traffic was carried on by boats, and five years 
passed before Mexico again stood on dry land. The works had to be resumed, 
but were carried on without any general plan and even on mutually destructive 
lines, in one place by underground galleries, in another by open cuttings. The 
latter system at last prevailed, and in 1789 the great undertaking was com- 

At several points the channel, excavated between high rocky walls, presents 
the appearance of some of the boldest cuttings executed by railway engineers in 
modern times. For a length of about 8G0 yards the height of the escarpments 
exceeds 165 feet, and the opening of the passage is more than double as wide. 
The river Cuautitlan, which discharged into Lake Zumpango a volume of about 
400 cubic feet per second, was diverted to this desagi'tc, or emissary, and the 
northern lakes also sent their overflow through the same channel. 

But the friable parts of the cutting were frequently eroded, filling its bed 
with mud and refuse. Hence the works had to be incessantly renewed, and during 
the revolutionary wars they were abandoned altogether. Then came the great 
floods of 18G6, which threatened to swamp the capital with the swollen con- 
tents of the northern lakes rushing through breaches in the embankments, and 
during which the channel roUed down a volume of from 1,050 to 1,100 cubic feet 
per second. To prevent such a disaster a new emissary was projected, which was 
intended to carry off the overflow, not only of the northern lakes, but also that of 
Texcoco. But little more than a beginning was made with the gallery six miles 
long, by which the waters were to be drained off through the Tequisquiac Mountain. 
For twelve years all operations were suspended and not resumed till 1881; at 
present there is some prospect of the works being completed in 1893. 

But scientific men in Mexico are far from being of accord on the subject of 
drainage. According to L. de Belina the important question is not how to drain 
the "valley," but on the contrary, how to increase its humidity. Arid, dusty, 
and treeless, the surrounding plains must be transformed to a desert unless the 
running waters issuing from the uplands are husbanded for irrigation purposes, 
and unless the slopes of the hills be replanted to improve the climate and regulate 
the annual discharge. 

Ci.tMATE — Flora — Fauna. 

Taken as a whole the Mexican climate is one of those that present the greatest 
contrasts in a narrow space. Here the normal climate, as represented by the 
parallels of latitude, is profoundly modified by the elevation of the land, the aspect 


of the mountain sloiacs, the force and direction of the winds, the distribution and 
quantity of the rainfall. 

Nevertheless, in certain regions a uniform climate prevails over vast spaces. 
Thus the northern states contain extensive plains remote from both oceans, where 
the extremes of temperature characteristic of the American Far "West are continued 
far to the south on all those plateaux where the prevailing vegetation are the 
cactus and thorny plants, which constitute a special zone combining the characfei'S 
of both zones. 

On the other hand the narrow region of the Tehuantepec isthmus belongs 
entirely to the humid tropical zone, even on the mountains which form the divide 
between the two oceans. The climatic contrasts caused by the different altitudes 
are produced in a large way only in the central part of Mexico, on the Anahuac 
plateau and the two border I'anges. The route from Vera Cruz on the Atlantic, 
across the plateau between the Puebla and Oaxaca uplands, and down to the 
Pacific at Acapulco, is the highway where these sharply contrasted climates may 
be studied to the best advantage. 

The low-lying maritime zone comprises both the swampy and unfertile sandy 
coastlands, and the well-watered plains and first slopes which arc thickly clad 
with leafy trees intertwined with festoons of lianas and surmounted by the tufted 
crests of tall palms. This is the tierm calimte, the " hot land," where the normal 
temperature exceeds 74° F. Some places on the^ Mexican seaboard are in fact 
amongst the hottest on the globe. Such is, for instance, the port of La Paz, which 
earned for California the name of the "Hot Furnace " given to it by Cortes. 

Above the coast zones, one facing the Atlantic, the other the Pacific, follow 
the tierras templadas, or "temperate lands," comprised mainly between the 
altitudes of 3,000 and 6,000 feet, but rising to a higher elevation in the southern 
than in the northern states of the republic. These are the regions which corres- 
pond to south-west Europe, at least in their mean temperature, vegetable products 
and suitability for settlement by the white race. 

The tierras fempladas are succeeded by the ficrras frias, or " cold lands," 
which comprise the plateau proper with the encircling highlands. The less 
elevated part of this region, growing maguey and cereals, is the most densely 
peopled region in Mexico, whereas on the higher grounds, some of which rise 
above the snow line, the climate is too rude to support a forest vegetation, or a 
dense human population. Sometimes these higher groimds are grouped together 
as a fourth zone distinguished by the name of tierras heladas, or " frozen lands." 

In many parts special conditions have placed the different vegetable zones 
in close proximity without any graduated transitions. From the suinmit of 
certain headlands, occupied exclusively by plants of a European type, the traveller 
sees at his feet palm groves and banana thickets. From the crests of the great 
volcanoes all three zones may even be seen superimposed one above the other. 
Thanks to the increased facilities for rapid travelling, it is now possible in a 
single day to traverse the three distinct zones, which elsewhere are separated 
one from the other by intervals of manj'' hundreds and even thousands of miles. 




Eut although in some exceptional districts the zones are brought into sharp 
juxtaposition, they merge almost everywhere by successive transitions one into 
another. It is only in a very general -svay that any given region can be said to 
belong to such or such a zone, and the parting line oscillates greatly, especially 
about the base of the mountains. A zone of mutual overlapping has been 
developed under the thousand modifying conditions of soil, temperature, winds, 
the struggle for existence between the various species of plants. Certain glens 
and slopes even occur, which, in their vegetation, form tropical enclaves in the 
very midst of the temperate zone. 

Regarded as a whole, Mexico, which is intersected by the tropic of Cancer 

Fig. 21. — Veetioal D1SPOSI130N OF THE M.EXiciy Climates. 
Scale 1 : 12,000,000. 

102°40 V/est oF GreenwicK 97°40 



. 310 Miles. 

almost exactly in the centre, is a hot country. Assuming its mean elevation to be 
3,600 feet, the average temperature of these latitudes would be about 60° F., or 
nearly the same as that of Nice or Perpignan in the south of France, but far below 
that of African regions, such as the Sahara and Nubia, lying under the same parallels. 

The Anahuac plateau may be described as a temperate region upheaved 
above the tropical zone. It corresponds to the temperate and cold regions of 
Abyssinia, which also dominate " hot lands," such as Massawah and the Danakil 
territory. But however favoured the Abyssinian plateau may be in its climate, 
it is vastly inferior to Mexico in the advantages of position and means of access. 

In its latitude, Mexico lies well within the zone of the trade winds, which 
blow regularly from north-east to south-west, or from east to west, on the shores 


of tlie Gulf and the slopes of the mountains. But their normal direction is 
frequently modified by the great inequalities of the relief and the trend of the 
mountain ranges. The so-called iior/es, or northern gales, which prevail especially 
from October to March in the Gulf waters, and which are justly dreaded by 
skippers bound for Tampico or Vera Cruz, are nothing more than the trade winds 
deflected from their course, and attracted southwards bj^ the heated and rarefied 
atmosphere of the low-lying plains of Yucatan. United with the cold current 
which sweeps down the Mississijipi, the trades blow with tremendous fury along 
the seaboard, the storms often lasting for several daj-s, and even a whole week, 
to the great danger of the shipping on these exposed andharbourless coasts. The 


Scale 1 : 30.000.000. 


West dF GreenwicK 

• r^ 


0to50°F. 50' to 59= 69' to 68' 68=10 77° 77° and upwards. 

620 Miles. 

full force of the norte is scarcely felt on the plateaux, and its strength is completely 
exhausted before it reaches the Pacific slope. 

The shores of this ocean have also their special atmospheric currents, which 
are determined by the disposition of the coastline, and the form and elevation of 
the neighbouring mountains. At irregular intervals during the sxmimer the aiid 
and superheated plateaux attract the aerial masses from the equatorial waters, and 
the Slexican uplands are at least once a year visited by sudden squalls sweeping 
along the Columbian and Central American seaboard. At times they assume the 
character of a veritable cyclone, blowing in a few hours from every point of the 
compass. In 1839, one of these gales wrecked twelve vessels in the port of 
Mazatlan ; and llanzanillo, the Port of Colima, was destroyed by another in 1881. 



The southerly or south-easterly storms, which have received from the missionaries 
the curious name of Covdonazo dc San Francisco, or " Scourge of St. Francis," 
rarely penetrate far into the interior, although a town of Michoacan, near the 
verge of the central Mexican uplands, has with good reason been named Ario, 
that is, the " Stormy " in the Tarascan language. 

On the west side, the prevailing currents are the so-called papaffai/os, or north- 
easterly trades, and the south-western monsoons, that is, the trades of the southern 
hemisphere attracted to the north of the equator, and deflected from their original 

Owing to the contrasts in the relief of the land, the differences of temperature, 
and the irregularity of the winds, the rainfall is distributed very unequally through- 
out Mexico, though it is chiefly regulated according to the seasons. Towards the 
middle of May, when the sun stands near the zenith of the northern hemisphere, 
the rains begin to fall. The clouds, following the track of the sun along the 
ecliptic, discharge frequent torrential downpours, at least on the slopes facing 
seawards. Usually, the approaching storm is indicated by a great black cloud 
rising from the sea " like a huge torso with half -mutilated limbs." It is locally 
called the giganfon, or " Giant," who will soon swallow up all the heavens. In 
the afternoon the clouds are rent asunder, and Ht up by flashes of lightning 
accompanied with thunder, in which the ancient Aztecs recognised the voice of 
the god Tepeyolotl, or " Heart of the Mountain," rumbling in long echoes over 
the hills. The sudden downpours are followed by rain lasting usually till 
nightfall. Then it clears up, and by dawn the wiads have already dried the 

On the Mexican j^'^^tcau the tropical rains, brought by the north-easterly 
winds, fall regularly only during the four months from June to September, and 
the showers generally last less than an hour. The rains are also interrupted, 
especially in July and August, by numerous fine days, and even by weeks of dry 
weather, " St. Anne's Spring," as it is then called. They cease altogether in Octo- 
ber, when winter begins, which however presents some of the features of a Euro- 
pean summer ; hence its name of estio, " summer," or finnjw de secas, " dry season." 

It is the lack of moisture in the groimd, rather than the low temperature, 
that strips the trees of their foliage, and thus imparts a wintry aspect to the land- 
scape. But the lofty ranges also assimie their snowy mantle at an altitude of 
13,000, and even 12,500 feet. In exceptional j*ears, the Ahualco Pass (11,520 
feet) has been covered with snow all the way from Popocatepetl to Ixtaccihuatl, 
and a few flakes have even at times fallen so low as Morelia (6,400 feet). 

Numerous irregularities, however, are everywhere caused by the differences 
in the relief and aspect of the land. Thus two contiguous districts will some- 
times have a totally different distribution of moisture. In certain regions, notably 
the temperate zone of Jalapa and Orizaba, from 1,500 to 8,000 feet high, the 
vapours brought by the northern winds are condensed In fogs which lie on the 
surface and precipitate a fine but persistent mist. This Is the so-called chipicJiipi, 
which is awaited with impatience by the natives, for whom it is the essential 


condition of prosperity, tlie salutl del puchlo. During its i^revalence the sun 
remains clouded generallj- for a period of about eight da)^s. 

At all times the rainfall is more copious in the southern j)rovinces, where the 
land is contracted between the Atlantic and Pacitic inlets, and where the sun twice 
crosses the zenith of the earth. Here the annual fall ranges from 80 to 120 inches, 
gradually diminishing thence northwards to the regions beyond the tropic of 
Cancer. Thus in Sonora the rains scarcely begin before the month of Juh', and 
are frequeutl}" interrupted during the normal season. Those northern regions 
especially which lie between the two main ranges have a very dry climate, the 
moisture-bearing clouds being here intercepted by the slopes of the Sierra Madrcs. 
On these excessively arid plateaux a disjDlay of extremely vivid sparks is often 
produced by the friction of two hard bodies. A continuous crepitation or crackling 
sound is sometimes even heard escaping from all the rugosities of the rocky soil. 

As a whole the Mexican climate, if not one of the healthiest, is certainly one 
of the most delightful in the world. The zone of " temperate lands " on both 
oceanic slopes enjoj's an " everlasting spring, " being exposed neither to severe 
winters nor to intolerable summer heats ; in every glen flows a rippling stream ; 
every human abode is embowered in a leafy vegetation, and here the native plants 
are intermingled with those of Europe and Africa. Each traveller in his turn 
describes the valley in A^hich he has tarried longest as " the loveliest in the world," 
that nowhere else the snowy crests or smoking volcanic cones rise in more im- 
posing grandeur above the surrounding sea of verdure all carpeted with the 
brightest flowers. In these enchanting regions there is still room for millions 
and millions of human beings.* 

The Mexican flora is, so to say, a living illustration of its climate, for the 
plants thrive or droop according to the varied conditions of temperature, aspect, 
and moisture. From the character of the vegetation the botanist knows at once 
whether the heat or cold is excessive, the oscillations of the thermometer mode- 
rate or extreme, the rainfall abundant or slight. In these respects Mexico presents 
the greatest contrasts, deserts and steppes alternating with scrub, and mighty 
forests bound together in an inextricable tangle of creepers and undergrowths. 

In the northern regions the rocky Chihuahua and neighbouring provinces, 
where rain seldom falls, have an extremely sparse vegetation, consisting of greyish 
thorny plants with largo hard leaves, a vegetation which adds little to the 

* Meteorological conditions of some Mexican stations taken in the dii-ection from north to south : — 

StationK T^aHtude Height. Mean EainfaU. 

ftianons. J^atituae. j-^^j Temperature. Inches. 

Monterey (1888) .... 25° 40' 1,036 70= F. 137 

Mazatlan (six years) . . 23° 11' 150 76° 39 

Zacatecas (1888) .... 22° 47' 8,100 58° 19 

San Luis Potosi (2 years) . 22° 05' 6,230 62° 16 

Leon (1888) 21° 7' 5,920 65° 35 

Guanajuato (1888) ... 21° 1' 6,645 63° 33 

Guadalajara (6 years) . . 20° 41' 5,180 72° 34 

Mexico (12 years) . . . 19° 26' 7,400 60° 30 

CoUma (15 years) ... 19° 12' 1,655 78° 42 

Puebla (2 years) .... 19° 7,110 60° 39 

Oaxaca (1879) .... 17° 3' 5,108 67° 38 


general aspect of the landscape. Nevertheless in spring their arid plains are 
suddenly decked with many-coloured flowers, the mezquito shrub is covered 
with a pale yellow blossom, clusters of white bells shoot up from amid the glossy 
foliage of the jaicca, the shingly tracts are enlivened by the bright red petals of 
the mamillaria. Thanks to its soft velvety turf, Europe may have more cheerful, 
but assured!}' not more brilliant, grassy meads. 

But this " flowery season " is soon over, and nature presently resumes its dull 
and sullen aspect, relieved here and there only by a few thickets of delicate green 
thorny shrubs. The prevailing species are the mezqultes (algarrobia glandulosa), 
for the most jjart very different from those found in the United States, but, like 
them, still exuding a substance resembling gum-arabic. In New Mexico they are 
mere bushes whose stems branch off directh* from the root ; in south Texas they 
develop into shrubs ; but within Mexican' territory, and especially in Sonora, they 
assume the proportions of veritable trees, here and there grouped in large groves. 

Elsewhere, notably on the slopes of the "Western Sierra Madre, in the states 
of Chihuahua, Sonora and Sinaloa, the oak is the prevailing species ; hence the term 
encinal, or " oak lands," applied in these regions to any extensive wooded tracts. 
The term chaparral, which, strictly speaking, should be applied only to the deci- 
duous oak, is in the same way given by the northern Mexicans to all spaces under 
scrub or brushwood ; in ordinary language every grove or thicket is a chajDarral, 
even where the mezquites and large cactus are the dominant types. 

Except along the river banks fringed by poplars and willows, the only woody 
plants in certain northern regions of Mexico are the cactus. Of these the most 
remarkable are the pifa/ia/jas, which assume the form of thorny fluted columns. The 
branches stand out at right angles from the stem, and then grow parallel with it, thus 
forming prodigious candelabra, some of which are 3-5 or 40 and even 60 feet high. 

Other species are reckoned by the hundred which have adapted themselves to 
the arid climate by developing an abundance of sap in their thick leaves, and 
protecting themselves against animals by thorny armour. Amongst these fantastic 
plants there are some which at a distance might be taken for blocks of greenish stone. 

In certain places the ground is completely carpeted as by a kind of green 
sward with dwarf agaves, which are still known by their old Aztec name, ixtk or 
ia;tli. The larger species of this useful plant, whose fibre is used for weaving 
coarse textile fabrics, and whose sap serves for the preparation of brandy and other 
national drinks, flourish especially in the inland states of San Luis Potosi, 
Zacatecas, Durango, Aguascalientcs, and even on the colder plateaux. In many 
districts the general character of the scenery is determined by these agave planta- 
tions, with their enormous thorny leaves, associated with hedges of other species, 
such as the organos, so named from their resemblance to the pipes of an organ. 

The three superimposed zones, ranging from the foot of the mountains to the 
upland valleys of the plateaux, are characterised by special types, which impart 
to the several floras their distinctive features. Thus on the coastlands of the hot 
zone arc seen extensive savannahs of dense herbage, magnificent palm groves and 
all the trees of the Antilles noted for their fruits or flowers, their wood, bark or 



essences. Higher up follow those glorious woodlands where the European and 
tropical floras are everywhere intermingled ; here flourish the coffee shrub, the 
banana, the orange, and especially maize and beans, which supply the staple diet of 
the inhabitants. Then comes the cold region, yielding wheat ; a cereal, however, 
which is here of far less economic value than maize. 

On the plateaux the prevailing trees are the oak and pine, the former between 
the altitudes of 5,000 and 8,500 feet, the latter rising from 8,000 to above 13,000 feet. 
On most of the higher crests the conifers reach or even exceed the altitude of 
13,500 feet. They are the last arborescent trees that grow on the flanks of the 
mountains, the space between them and the lower limit of perpetual snow being 

Fig. 2G. — Vegetable Zones in Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 30,000,000. 

Alpine Flora. Finns pondcrosi Prairie Flora. Sequoia, 


Cere us 



Pinus Quercus crassifolia Hfematoxylon Deserts, 

Australia. and reticulata. campechianum. 

G20 Miles. 

exclusively occupied by short herbage and grasses. But owing to the overlapping 
of the vegetable zones of different temperatures, the pines of the uplands have 
almost everywhere encroached upon the temperate regions, and have even descended 
below the line of 3,500 feet. 

The dominant types of trees are represented by a great number of si^ccies, about 
seventy-five varieties of the oak having been found on the slopes of Orizaba alone. 
The ahiiehuetes or "cypresses " of Chapultepec, Atlisco, Oaxaca, which belong to 
the same species as those of Louisiana {ta.rodium cUsiicJium), grow to a colossal size; 
they are classed by Humboldt with the giants of the vegetable kingdom. 


Many of the numerous species of the Mexican flora have found a home in the 
eastern hemisphere. Fi'om Mexico comes the chocolate ph'int, which has pre- 
ser\-ed its Aztec name ; a species of arachis, the cacahuate, which also retains its 
native designation in a modified form ( tlacacahuatl) ; the jjine- apple, the tomato 
{tomatl of the Indians) ; the agave, and the various species of cactus, jalap, sarsa- 
parilla and other medicinal plants, balsams, gums, and resins. Both the potato 
and tobacco are also indigenous to Mexico. 

The European gardens, orchards, and conservatories are being continually en- 
riched by exotics from Mexico ; the naturalist Poyet alone has introduced into 
France as many as sixty species of fruit trees and ornamental plants from the 
single province of Jalapa. On the other hand all foreign species maj' be acclima- 
tised in the vast " botanical garden " formed by the successive terraces which rise 
from the seaboard at Vera Cruz or Mazatlan to the ujjlands of Guadalajara and 
Zacatccas. The banana, whose name is of Sanskrit origin, and which has no 
original designation in any American language, was probably introduced into the 
New World through the Canaries and Ilaiti. Wheat was brought by a negro 
slave belonging to Cortes, and Bernard Diaz tells us how he himself planted seven 
or eight orange pips which grew to be fine plants, the " first " in Mexico. The 
conquerors also planted the first vine in this fertile soU, where every industry 
depending on the products of the vegetable kingdom might be practised. 

At a comparatively recent epoch, that is, during tertiary and quaternary times, 
the Mexican fauna comprised several species of large quadrupeds comparable in 
size to those of the Old World. Bernard Diaz had alreadj- noticed certain " giants' 
bones," which he attributed to the predecessors of the Aztecs, and to similar finds 
are due such names as cerro, Ionia or Uano del (jigante, now occurring in various parts 
of the republic. These remains, which have from time immemorial been used in the 
native pharmacopoeia, and which appear to be really efiicacious in several maladies, 
are for the most part those of mastodon.?, rhinoceroses, elephants, deer, and horses. 
Under the Tequisquiac hill, north of Mexico, a new species of gigantic armadillo 
has been discovered, which has been named the gli/pfodoii clavipcs. 

The present Mexican fauna belongs, like its flora, to the North American zone, so 
Ear as regards the plateau regions, and to the Antilles in respect of the coastland 
round the Gulf, while that of the Pacific seaboard is intermediate between the 
Califoruian and South American. In the general aspect of its terrestrial animals, 
Mexico is connected more with the United States, whereas in its marine forms 
the reverse movement has taken place. Thus the prevailing species in the Gulf of 
Mexico as far as Tamaulipas and Texas, and the Pacific coast northwards to 
Sonora and Lower California, have migrated from South America. The species in 
the two oceanic basins differ almost completely, and despite the proximity of the 
Pacific and Atlantic shores, their shells are quite distinct. 

In the hot lowlands, where the atmosphere is most charged with vapours, are 
concentrated the largest number of genera and species ; but this maj' be due to the 
fact that here the populations are less dense, and the work of extermination conse- 
quently less advanced than in the temperate regions. Three species of monkeys 


dwell in the tropical forests, where the vampire hangs from the boughs of the 
trees, and the humming-bird, the " solar beam " of the old Mexicans, flits from 
flower to flower. Every town has its organised bands of " scavenger " vultures, 
(cat/tarfcs atvatus, zopilote or black vulture), while the king zopilote or white vul- 
ture {sarcoramjjJius papa) holds sway in the rural districts ; when the royal bird 
swoops down on the carrion, the other species stand respectfully round, awaiting 
their turn to share in the banquet. 

In the thickets have their lair the pon^erful carnivora, puma, jaguar or tiger- 
cat, as well as the tapir, largest of the Mexican ungulata. All the emydida?, 
terrapins or mud tortoises, are found in the shallow marine waters along the coasts, 
while the lagoons, and especially the fluvial estuaries, are infested by the alligator ; 
the seashore and forests of the coastlands are also the haunts of the gecko, basi- 
lisk and iguana. A large number of the snake family, poisonous or harmless, is 
confined to the hot zone, which also swarms with batrachians ; here are found most 
of the numerous characteristic species of toads and salamanders. 

The waters of the estuaries and coast streams teem with fishes, all the numerous 
varieties of which difEer on the two oceanic slopes, but still present a certain analogy 
in their general distribution. The marshy plains and dark forests of the hot lande 
are also infested bj' clouds of mosquitoes. To escape from his tormentors the ox 
plunges into the nearest quagmire, leaving muzzle alone exposed ; on this presently 
alights the pretty little " commander " bird, which lives on mosquitoes, and thus the 
unwieldy beast and dainty winged creature combine against the common enemy. 

The temperate lands have also their special fauna, and certain species of snakes 
and tortoises are found only in this zone ; such is the boa-imperator which ranges 
to an altitude of over 4,000 feet, and whose deified image formerly adorned the 
temples of the Aztecs. Specially characteristic of the northern provinces which 
form a prolongation of the American Far West, are the lizards met nowhere else 
in Mexico. TTithin a recent period bisons were still seen on the uplands of Chi- 
huahua, but this animal has disappeared altogether from the Xorth Mexican 

On one occasion Froebel witnessed the passage of a herd of antelopes, num- 
bering at least a thousand head, in the neighbourhood of Lake Encinillas in the 
north-west of Chihuahua. The grey bear of Oregon, and the wild sheep, preyed 
upon by three species of the coyote, by tlie puma and the jaguar, also penetrate 
into North Mexico and Lower California, as do also the Virginian opossum and 
the prairie marmot. The peccary dwells in the forests, and lays waste the neigh- 
bouring plantations. This animal is much dreaded for the furious way a whole 
herd will sometimes precipitate itself on the wayfarer. 

But of all the Mexican fauna, two only have been domesticated : the huaholoil 
{meleagris mexicana), which is a species of duck, and the turkey, introduced into 
Europe by the Spaniards from the ""West Indies," hence by the French called 
" coq d'Inde." The techichi, an edible dumb dog, was soon exterminated when 
taxed by the Spanish authorities. The other farmyard animals have all been intro- 
duced into Mexico by the conquerors. 


Scorpions are one of the plagues on the plateaux, where the fields are also 
ravaged by various species of acrita. The nights in the tropical zone are lit up at 
night by the firefly (cociiijos), flitting and flashing in the air like coruscations. 
The ant is represented by numerous species, one of the commonest of which are the 
arrieros, or "muleteers" (cecodoma mexicana), who excavate their crater-like habi- 
tations in the hardest rock. 

One of the most interesting of the lower organisms observed by naturalists on 
the Anahuac plateau is the curious axolotl, which has been the subject of pro- 
found studies in connection with the theory of evolution. It aboimds especially 
in the saline and sodic waters of Lake Texcoco, and has rarely been met in other 
parts of the New World. It is a species of amphibious lizard, furnished with 
bronchial tufts or gills, but liable to such Protean changes that its classification 
presented great difficulties to the first observers of this eccentric creature. They 
gave it all sorts of scientific names, even that of lusus aquarum, " sport of the 
waters," and it was then constituted a separate genus under the title of siredon. 

Nevertheless, many zoologists already pronounced it to be the larval form of a 
large species of anib/i/stoiiie, and this view was at last proved to be correct by 
Dumeril, who gradually transformed the axolotl to an arablystome. Most of the 
axolotls remain for several generations in the larval or tadpole state, and a few 
only develop into the perfect animal. The Indians consider its flesh a great 
luxury, and they also greedily devour the eggs deposited by two species of the 
axayacatl fly (especially the corixa femovata) amongst the sedge of the Mexican 
lakes. These eggs are pounded and mixed with other ingredients to form cakes, and 
nests of other larva;, clustered together like sponges, are also eaten. According to 
Virlet d'Aoust the eggs of the axayacatl deposited on the bed of lakes, hardens to 
a kind of oolitic limestone exactly similar to that of the oolites of the Jura, which 
were probably formed in the same way. 

The marine waters on both sides of Mexico abound in animal life. Amongst 
the cetaceans that visit its shores are some manatees. Hundreds of new species of 
molluscs have been discovered on the Pacific side, amongst others the aptisia 
(Icpilans, which would aj^pear to be the same as that from which the Tyrians 
extracted their purple dye. The Indians of Tehuan tepee use it for dyeing their 
fibres, without requiring a mordant to fix the colour. 

In the Gulf of California, and especially near Paz and the neighbouring archi- 
pelagoes, extensive beds of jDearl oysters are fished. Some other islands in the same 
gulf are frequented by myriads of various species of aquatic birds, and have already 
yielded many hundred cargoes of guano. 

It is noteworthy that the Pacific islands lying at some distance from the coast 
have all a fauna different from that of the mainland. Thus the little Tres-Marias 
group, about 60 miles off the coast of Jalisco, has a special species of humming- 
bird. The Revilla-Gigedo archipelago also forms a separate zoological zone, and 
the island of Guadalupe, 155 miles distant from Lower California, has eleven 
species of land birds, every one of which differs from the corresponding species on 
the adjacent continent. 


Inhabitants of Mexico. 

The hypotheses that hare hem advanced regarding the origin of the various 
populations found hy the Spaniards in Mexico at the time of the conquest are 
ahnost as numerous as the works written on the ethnology of this region. 
Naturally, the early writers, being obliged to harmonise their fancies with the 
Biblical texts, had to trace the Mexicans back to one of Noah's sons, arriving either 
by sea with the waters of the Deluge or by land after the subsidence of the flood. 

Even during the present century certain authors have endeavoured to show 
that these natives are descended from the Jews " dispersed over the earth " after 
the Babylonian captivity. According to them, the kinship is attested bj' the 
physical appearance, the national character, the religious manners, customs, myths, 
traditions, even the very language of the Mexican nation. Other writers sought 
in classical antiquity, amongst the Egyptians, Phoenicians, or Carthaginians, for 
some indications of a former immigration into the New "World, and Plato's 
Atlantis could not be overlooked in the conjectural history of the old Mexican 
races. " The Atonatiuh, that is to say, the Atlantides," says Alfredo Chavero, 
" are the mother people of the civilised nations of Europe and America ; the 
Spaniards and the Toltecs alike descend from them." Brasseur de Bourbourg even 
fancied he had made out from the Xahuatl manuscript known as the Codex Cliimal- 
j}ojMca that an " eruption of volcanoes stretching over the whole extent of the 
American continent, which was at that time double its present size, blew up the 
globe, and between two risings of the morning star engulfed the richest regions of 
the earth." Fortunately, the Atlantides of the present Mexico escaped the 
disaster, and survived to record it on those monuments of American literature 
and architecture which no savant had hitherto been able to interpret. 

But putting aside these vagaries, the most accepted hypothesis, expounded under 
various forms by Guignes, Humboldt, Prescott, Quatrefages, and Hamv, regards 
the Mexicans as immigrants from Asia, arriving either by Bering Strait or the 
Aleutian Islands, or else directly across the ocean, or from group to group of the 
Polynesian Islands. The relative proximity of the two continents of Asia and 
North America, and the imdoubted fact that Japanese junks had actually been 
cast ashore on the Califoi"nian seaboard during the historic period, could not fail 
to suggest such views, and commend them to the serious consideration of many 
superficial enquirers. There is, however, no authentic proof that the mysterious 
region where grows ihefusaiig, and which was supposed to have been discovered 
by a Chinese expediiion at the beginning of the seventh century, is really Mexico 
or Central America ; nor does the description of the country given by the old 
Chinese writer agree very well with that of the Anahuac plateau, still less with 
the habits and customs of the natives as described by the Spanish conquerors. 

The religion of the Aztecs differs also too profoundly from Buddhism or any 
other east Asiatic system to recognise in it the teachings of any Chinese mission- 
aries. On the other hand the fancied coincidences of symboKcal signs and figures 
are far too vague to establish anything more than the faintest presumption ia 


favour of former relations between peoples separated from eacL. other by tbe broad 
waters of the Pacific. The communications that may have taken place at various 
epochs, and even the resemblances noticed between the Mexicans and Chinese, 
can in no way justify the assumption of the common origin of the two races, or 
even of their cultures. As far as history and tradition go back, the Mexican 
lands have always been inhabited ; whether aborigines or not, these populations 
would have been spoken of by the Greeks as "autochthones," or indigenous. 

As in other places, such as the neighbourhood of Puj', in the south of France, 
geologists have also discovered the fossil remains of a quaternary man on the 
Anahuac plateau, near the city of Mexico. These interesting remains, dating 
from an epoch long anterior to Aztec civilisation, were brought to light in 1884 
at the foot of the Pehon de los Bancs in the saline plains formerly flooded by the 
waters of Lake Texcoco to the east of the capital. The bones were found 
in the vegetable humus imder a layer of lava in association with some kitchen 

The osteoloo-ical characters of this fossil Mexican man are the same as those of 
the pure indigenous race of Anahuac, in which the canine teeth scarcely differ 
from the incisors. The man of Penon was contemporaneous with the elephant, 
deer and horse which inhabited the same region at a time when the level of the 
waters in the Texcoco lagoon was 10 feet higher than at present, and when vol- 
canic eruptions anterior to history had not yet taken place. 

Elsewhere, flints or cherts, evidently worked by the hand of man, have been 
found amongst deposits also containing the teeth and other remains of the Ameri- 
can elephant (elephan Colomhi). These primitive races must consequently have 
flourished many thousand years before the present time. 

At a time when Rome was hastening to its fall, and the barbaric peoples of 
North Europe were overrunning the empire, the Anahuac tableland in Central 
America was already the seat of an advanced civilisation. Doubtless, it is far 
from easy to classify peoples as barbarous or civilised according to their various 
degrees of culture ; but the latter term, which has so often a purely conventional 
meaning, may justly be applied to the Aztecs, or Mexicans, as well as to the 
Mayas of Yucatan, the Chibchas (Miiiscas), Quichuas, and Aymaras of Soutli 
America. It might even be extended to the Pueblo Indians, and perhaps to other 
native communities in North America. 

Amongst the loss advanced nations, whom thej', nevertheless, resembled in 
their political and social evolution, the Mexicans were distinguished by their 
national cohesion, by their highly developed economic system, their arts and 
sciences, as well as the knowledge of numerous technical processes enabling them 
to facilitate labour. Like the early civilisations of the Old "World, such as 
those of Egypt, Chaldasa, India, and China, that of Mexico took its rise at some 
distance from the ocean on the uplands encircled by lofty border ranges or steep 
escarpments. It had neither a Nile nor a Euphrates, by which the riverain 
populations could be merged in a compact nation ; but it had its lakes, far more 
extensive than at present, whose shifting levels, periodical floods and subsidences 


Imposed on tlie inhabitants the necessity of co-operation, of mutual aid and soli- 
darity, in which lie the germs of all progress. 

Nevertheless, compared with the early historic civilisations of the eastern 
hemisphere, that of ^Mexico had the disadvantage of remaining, if not completely 
isolated, at least almost entirely encircled by barbai-ic communities. It lacked the 
proximity of other centres of progressive life, with which to exchange those recip- 
rocal influences whence might spring another and a higher culture. Despite the 
vertical disposition of the climates, rendering the hot lands highly dangerous for 
the inhabitants of the plateaux, the Aztecs had doubtless established distant rela- 
tions with the 3Iayas and the various groups of Nahuas dispersed over Central 
America ; but elsewhere they were cut off from contact with all cultured peoples, 
imtil their seclusion was suddenly and violently invaded by the Spanish conquerors. 
Henceforth, civilisations and races became forcibly intermingled. 

So rapid was the work of destruction which followed the first arrival of the 
Spaniards that antiquarians might well have feared the complete disappearance 
of all documents relating to the ancient history of Mexico. Such records were 
often deliberately destroyed, as by Archbishop Zumarraga at Tlatelulco, Xufiez 
de la Vega at Chiapa, and others who, aping the zeal of Paul at Ephesus, 
burnt, as suspected of necromancy, all the Mexican works they could discover. 
Later they were satisfied with concealing the precious manuscripts, which they 
kept locked up in their libraries, neither able nor willing to make any use of 

Fortunately the ancient lore had been kept alive in a few noble families allied 
by marriage with the Spanish conquerors. The aid of these men could thus be 
secured in the later attempts made to restore the annals of Anahuac. Many 
natives contributed in this way to rescue from oblivion the early records of 
the Aztecs and the allied peoples. In the year 1-348 Tadeo de Xiija, an Indian of 
Tlaxcala, at the request of the viceroy, composed a history of the conquest, which 
was attested by the signatures of thirty Tlaxcaltec nobles. 

Gabriel d'Ayala, of Texcpco, wrote in the Aztec language a history of Mexico 
from the year 1243 to 1-362. Contributions to the history of her native land, 
now unfortunately lost, were even made by a Mexican lady, Maria Bartola, 
Princess of Ixtapalapa. Several pure or half-blood natives, such as Tezozomoc, 
Chimalpahin and Camargo, have also left important historic manuscripts ; lastly 
the family of the Ixtlilxochitls, descended from the old kings of Mexico and 
Teotihuacan, had several representatives amongst the national historians, and one 
of them, Fernando de Alva Cortes, had even the courage to exalt his ancestry and 
denounce the "frightful cruelties '' of the conquerors of Mexico. 

But even amongst the Spanish missionaries men were found who recognised 
something more in Mexican history than the artifices of the devil, and who went 
to the trouble to procure explanations of the pictorial records, and collect the 
ancient traditions of the people. Such were Bartolome de las Casas, Sahagun and 
Torquemada. The historians of the present century have also been able to throw 
further light on the pre-Columbian history of the Mexicans, thanks to the 


discovery of new manuscripts, the partial interpretation of the hieroglj'phics, and 
a more careful study of the early writers. 

Aided by these resources the student may now roughly trace the sequence of 
events for at least a thousand years before the conquest, and dimly contemplate 
the first glimmerings of national life amongst the Mexican populations. At this 
epoch the land was already occupied by most of the half-civilised Indian nations, 
such as the Otomi, Chichimecs, Huaxtecs, Totonacs, Mixtecs and Zapotecs, by 
whom it is still inhabited, and according to the national tradition, it was in their 
midst that the Nahuas, that is, the " Clear-spoken People," made their appearance 
in the twofold capacity of conquerors and civilisers. 

These intruders, coming from the " Seven Caves " of the north, divided into 
seven tribes, each with seven sub-divisions, and advancing southwards in seven 
successive expeditions, had to vanquish a race of giants before securing possession 
of the " Terrestrial Paradise." Then the demi-god, Quetzalcoatl, a mythical 
legislator, coming iip from the sea, appeared amongst them, and after instructing 
them in the arts, sciences and social institutions, suddenly disappeared with a 
promise some day to return. This was the long-awaited Messiah, and when 
Cortes emerged, as it were from the bosom of the deep, and presented himself 
at the head of his followers, the prophecy was supposed to be at last fulfilled, and 
the people looked forward to the dawn of a new millennium. 

The sixth century of the new era is usually regarded as about the time when a, 
group of Nahuas arrived in Anahuac, after a long series of wanderings from 
Huehue-Tlapallan, a city or region which the commentators have hitherto failed 
to identify. Some place it in the north, others to the south, of Mexico. Never- 
theless, most of the indications point to the northern regions as the cradle of the 
Nahua race ; the very form of the Mexican tableland, broadening out northwards, 
and contracting southwards to a labyrinth of separate districts, shows the direction 
in which the migrations must have taken place. The whole group of these con- 
quering Nahua tribes is represented in the legends as issuiug from the " White 
Dove of Cloudland," a personification of the northern regions. 

Towards the close of the seventh century, the Nahuas, commonly designated 
under the name of Toltecs, are already found grouped round a city constituting 
the centre of their power. Modern archccologists have rediscovered this city in 
the ruins of Tollan, now known by the name of Tula, which lies fifty miles, by 
railway, north-west of Mexico. 

These early Nahua invaders were themselves replaced by others of the same 
race, vanquishers of the Quinames, or " Giants." The Olmecs and Xicalancs, as 
they were called, are represented as coming from the east, where they had doubt- 
less already constructed several of those monuments which were later attributed 
to succeeding tribes of different speech. In any case there can bo no doubt that 
the so-called Toltec epoch Was one of the richest in works which still attest the 
culture of these early Nahua peoples. The very word toUccatl, whatever its 
original meaning, had become synonymous with a craftsman of skill and taste, an 
"artist," as we should say. The same term was also applied to those traders 



\vho made long joiirnevs to distant lands, and vrho were tlie " torehbearers " of 
JS'ahua civilisation in Central America. 

Altogether it would seem probable that " Toltec " was not the name of any 
particular people, and that the " artists " were simply Nabuas like their Aztec 
successors. The term Colhua, or " ancestors," which is also applied to them, is 
also an indication of tbeir common ethnical unity. 

The Tula domination lasted till the second half of the eleventh century, when 
the strength of the powerful Xahua tribes was for the first time broken by 
intestine strife, foreign wars, and the invasion of the Chichimecs, or Barbarians, 

Fig. 27. — EsTEST or the Aztec CosairEsra. 

Scale 1 ; 13,000,iX)0. 

Aztec Conqiiests. 

. 1S6 Miles. 

accompanied by famine and pestilence. The chronicles speak of milHons perishing 
amid all these disorders, and, for whatever reason, after this date no further 
mention is made of the " Toltecs," or else they are represented as fugitives 
dispersed amongst the surrounding populations, or else going southwards to found 
new states in Yucatan, Chiapas, or Guatemala. 

Numerous migrations are also related of the Chichimecs, who displaced the 
centre of Xahua power southwards to the Anahuac plateau properly so called, 
first to the shores of Lake Xaltocan, then to the plains around Lake Texcoco not 
far from the present confederate capital. Lastly, the royal residence was estab- 


lished at Texcoco or Acolhuacan, tic "Ancestral City"; but in 1325 the rival 
city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan rose on an island amid the waters of the lake. 

The Aztec founders of this place were themselves of the same Nahua race as 
their Toltec and Chichimec predecessors. They had reached the Anahuac plateau 
towards the close of the twelfth century, having a hundred and twenty-five years 
previously quitted their insular home of Aztlan, which has not yet been identified 
with certaint}- by geographers. During those years of wanderings they had dwelt 
in the mj'thical land of Chicomoztoc, that is, the " Seven Caves," and traversed 
many strange regions in search of the " Land of Promise." The legend also speaks 
of them as the " inventors of fire," that is, as an ingenious people, rivalling the 
Toltecs in their knowledge of the arts and sciences. 

Thanks to its insular position, easily defended against all sudden attack, the 
lacustrine city grew rajjidl}-, and round it were formed the famous chinampas, or 
floating gardens, which supplied the people with provisions during times of siege. 
Even after it was divided into two hostile towns, the old and democratic Tenochtit- 
lan and the modern trading town of Tlatelulco, it continued to develop rapidly,thanks 
to the inflow of immigrants from all parts, seeking refuge in these sti'ongholds. 

"When the Chichimec ascendency was finally destroyed, in 1431, by intestine 
wars and the revolt of the oppressed populations, Mexico succeeded to the power 
hitherto exercised by Texcoco. It stood at the head of the confederacy formed by 
the three cities of Mexico, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. 

Under the hegemony of the A-ztec capital their conquests soon spread beyond 
the limits of Anahuac proper. The annals of this period, which agree on all the 
essential points, despite the partial accounts of writers of different nationalities, 
describe the Mexicans as reducing the surrounding populations for the twofold 
purpose of increasing their store of gold, precious stones, and ornamental feather- 
work, and procuring victims for the altars of their gods. "Westwards they failed 
to subdue the tribes of Michoacan, and towards the north-west they scarcely 
advanced beyond the limits of the Anahuac valley. But in the direction of the 
south and south-east they had conquered the whole region as far as the coast, from 
the mouth of the Panuco to the Alvarado bar. But on the plateau they left the 
independent nation of the Tlaxcalans, who, with hundreds of revolted tribes, greatly 
facilitated the overthrow of the Mexican empire by the Spanish invaders. 

Prodigies and scourges of all kinds, say the chronicles, foreboded the approaching 
ruin of the Aztec power, which had already been seriously threatened by the insur- 
rection of its own subjects, when Cortes and his Tlaxcalan allies presented them- 
selves before the doomed capital. Nevertheless the name of this opulent city has 
been extended not only to all the surrounding territorj', but also to an aggregate 
of provinces or states far more extensive than the empire of Montezuma. The 
term " Mexican," formerly restricted to a fraction of the Aztecs, themselves 
merely one of the numerous branches of the Nahua race, is now claimed by a great 
nation of about twelve million souls. 

The Spanish conquerors could not fail to recognise in Mexico an empire like 
that of their native land, where the will of a potent ruler was implicitly obeyed 


throughout his wide dominions, where he nominated the provincial governors, 
imposed tribute and levied troops. They fancied that here also aU. authority- 
emanated from the imperial power which was regularly maintained in the same 
dynasty by a sort of right divine. They were unable to understand that the 
Aztecs, after having lived in family commimities without any private ownership 
of the soil, had established a military democracy formed of kindred groups who 
selected their own "speakers," that is, chiefs. 

Surprised, on the other hand, to find in the New World a great city, larger and 
wealthier than their own capitals, the conquerors naturally exaggerated the 
resources of Mexico and the culture of its inhabitants. Nevertheless certain docu- 
ments relating to the native language, the sciences and the art of transmitting 
thought, the care also bestowed on agriculture and irrigation, lastly, the objects 
preserved in our museums, and the monuments still standing in the neighboui'hood 
of the cities or buried under dense forest growths, make it evident that Mexican 
civilisation had raised itself far above the level of barbaric populations. 

The Aztec language, which was probably identified with that of the Toltecs 
and Chichimecs, and certain dialects of which were and still are spoken far to the 
south in Guatemala, Salvador, and Nicaragua, was by far the most prevalent idiom 
in Mexican territory. It was current throughout the greater part of the Anahuac 
plateau, on the Gulf of Mexico as far as the Coatzacoalcos delta, and on the 
Pacific coastlands from the Gulf of California to that of Tehuantepec. It is still 
in use, side by side with Spanish, in all these regions, although the modern dia- 
lects scarcely retain a third of the stock of words in the literary standard. As 
the exclusive medium of civilised intercourse Aztec had become the language of 
diplomacy and trade ; as each province was conquered, the speech of the ruling 
people assumed an official character, and the inhabitants were compelled to learn it. 

Aztec belongs to the polysynthetic order of speech, and of this class it is a 
tvpical specimen ; the words of the sentence are fused together by modification to 
an extraordinary extent, and in accordance with many subtle laws of euphony. 
The language is wonderfully plastic, and those writers who have studied it 
thoroughly vie with each other in vaunting its varied qualities of grace, subtlety 
and wealth of descriptive terms ; in his work on natural history Hernandez 
enumerates two hundi-ed species of native birds and twelve hundred of plants, all 
of which have distinct names in Aztec. It also abounds in abstract terms to such 
an extent that translators have had no difficulty in finding Mexican expressions 
for such metaphysical or religious words as occiu' in the New Testament, the 
Imitation of Christ, and other works of a like character. Its finest literarj' monu- 
ments are of an ethical order, moral exhortations breathing a lofty sentiment 
imsurpassed even in Hindu classical literature. 

A remarkable indication of the high degree of civilisation attained by the 
Mexicans is afforded by their knowledge of astronomic phenomena. They were 
able to describe the movements of the sun, moon, and some planets, and the exact 
duration of the solar year ; the retvirn of each " new plant," as they expressed it, 
was more accurately known to them than it is even now in official Russia, where 

VOL. XVII. ■£ 


the present calendar is twelve days behind time. Like that of their Zapotec and 
Michoacan neighbours, their year was divided into eighteen months of twentj' 
days, to -n-hich were added five sujaplementary days, often regarded as of bad 
omen. But in order more completely to harmonize the conventional with the 
astronomic year, after every cycle of fifty-two years a period either of twelve or 
thirteen days was intercalated according to the necessities of the calculations. 

The numeral system was vigesimal, that is, four times five, the days being also 
grouped in fives, the fifth answering to our seventh, and possessing a certain 
importance as set apart for feasts and markets. But the j-ears were differently 
divided, each tlalpilli, " knot " or " bundle," consisting of thirteen, and four of 
these, that is, a series of fifty-two years, constituting the xiultmol2}iUi, or cycle. 
In the eyes of the Mexicans this formed the chief period of time, and with it 
were accordingly associated certain mystic ideas on the government of their daily 
life and of society. To them the normal duration of human existence seemed to 
coincide with the xiuhmolpilli, and from the few men to whom the gods granted 
the privilege of living through two of these periods, the double cj'cle took the 
name of huehuetilitztli, or " old age." According to a law — which, however, was 
not always enforced — the Toltec chiefs shoidd rule for exactly a cycle, and when a 
chief died before completing the period, a council of elders assumed the government 
in his name. On the other hand those who exceeded the term had to abdicate, 
and their successors began their reign from the hour indicated in the calendar. 

As amongst the peoples of the Old World, the solar had been preceded by a 
lujiar year ; hence it was that the revolutions of the moon continued to regulate 
the religious calendar of feasts and observances, which are always more faithful 
to established usage. In the same way, in the various European religions the 
great feast of Easter, which had originally been the feast of the spring-tide, 
that is, of renewed nature, is still determined by the revolutions of the moon. 

Although the Mexicans had not invented a writing sj^stem in the strict sense 
of the term, they were still able to perpetuate their records, to draw maps by 
"painting in a natural way all the rivers and harbours," to establish their 
genealogies, to publish their laws and edicts, to describe the industrial arts, the 
occupations of the household, lastly, to transmit even abstract thought, by means 
of hieroglyphical figures. Usually these figures, of square form with rounded 
angles, were painted in vivid colom's on a kind of paper made from the fibres of 
the maguey and anacahuite, the "paper tree " (cord/a boissicri), or else on skins or 
strips of cotton covered with varnish and bound together like a fan, forming an 
amatl, or book ^■ith wood boards for covers. The public buildings, and here and 
there the face of the rocks, especially in the Western Sierra Madre, were also embel- 
lished with hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone. 

A careful study of these documents shows that in the employment of such 
characters the Mexicans had advanced beyond the purely figurative and symbolic 
sense, in many combinations already using them as phonetic signs, so as to form a 
kind of rebus ; in this way were written, for instance, the names of cities. From 
the earliest historic times the Toltecs possessed extensive libraries of these painted 


manuscripts, which, however, the Aztecs are said to have destroyed through 
jealousy of their predecessors' fame. In their turn the Aztecs were themselves 
the victims of the iconoclastic zeal of their conquerors, who burnt nearly all the 
older documents. Most of the extant manuscripts date only from the end of the 
sixteenth century, a period when the Church, already reconciled with what 
remained of Nahua civilisation, permitted the faithful again to practise the 
traditional hieroglyj)hic system. But the manuscrijjts of this epoch consist mostly 
of religious confessions, catechisms, land surveys, and judicial endorsements. 

The industrial arts were highly developed, although the Nahuas had not 
reached the age of iron, the only metals known to them being gold, silver, copper, 
tin, and lead. Very thin plates of copper were used as currency, as were also 
cacao berries and a multitude of other objects, differing in every province. 
Cutting implements were made of an alloy of copper and tin nearly as hard as 
steel. Nevertheless, nearly all their weapons were still made of hard stone, and 
especially from chippings of iztli, or obsidian. Knives of this substance were also 
employed by the priests for immolating human victims. 

The agricultural implement which most resembled the Eurojjean plough 
consisted of a wooden apparatus to which were attached hard-wood sticks tipped 
with copper. The Spaniards were amazed at the skill of the native lapidaries and 
jewellers, who excelled especially in carving small animals and insects. According 
to contemporary chronicles, the European goldsmiths could not pretend to rival 
the artificers of the New World in perfection of workmanship. One process has 
certainly been lost, that of making little hollow figures of thin gold without any 
soldering. These objects, of which even the museums contain but few examples, 
seem quite inexplicable to the European craftsmen. 

Mexico had also its potters, millers, and paper-makers. The various plants of 
the cactus family, the palms and cotton trees, yielded their fibres for weaving 
textile fabrics, some of which were extremely delicate. In the art of dyeing the 
natives were also past masters, employing cochineal, besides a large number of 
herbs, barks, and fruits, the knowledge of which has been lost since the Spanish 
conquest ; in this respect Mexican art has deteriorated during the last three 
centuries. One of its triumphs was the application of feathers to the adornment 
of textiles, garments, tapestries, and coverlets. This feather work, which has 
been preserved in a degraded state by numerous families of artists, was regarded 
as one of the liberal arts. The " council of music," a sort of academy founded 
to encourage art, comprised the workers in feathers amongst its members. 

Architecture also flourished amongst the Nahuas, whose low, solid houses, for 
the most part only one-storeyed, rested either on a platform or on piles. The towns 
were regularly planned with narrow streets running at right angles and large 
spaces round the temples ; they were abundantly supplied with water by means of 
aqueducts and reservoirs, and had also their quaj's and embankments, while the 
rivers were crossed by suspension bridges made of lianas, and the rivulets by stone 
causeways. Some of the cities were fortified, and the great wall, six miles long, 
which closed the highway, leading through a defile, to the republic of Tlaxcala, 

F 2 


•was pierced by an ingeniously constructed gateway terminating in a parapet, 
behind wliich its defenders could keep under cover. 

But the chief architectural works of the Nahuas were the temples and 
pyramids, such as those of Teotihuacan and Cholula ; these with the strongholds are 
the only structures which in certain places have survived to our times, though 
careful exploration has revealed a few traces of the private dwellings formerlj'- 
occupied by the Mexicans. The religious monuments were constructed on a plan 
analogous to that of the Babylonian temples, being like them step pj'ramids 
formed by a series of rectangular parallelepipeds, superimposed and receding 
upwards ; but as a rule the American were proportionately much broader at the 
base than the Asiatic structures. Some were of prodigious size, a proof that 
human labour was little valued on the Anahuac plateaux. 

At the time of the SiDanish conquest the native civilisation was already on the 
wane, a fact recognised by the people themselves when speaking of the Toltec age 
as the flourishing epoch of the arts, sciences, and industries. Hemmed in on all 
sides, without any regular communications seawards, and relieved from the 
necessity of foreign trade by the great variety of products yielded by its three 
superimposed climatic zones, the Aztec world had been reduced to live on its own 
resources ; there was no inflow of commodities, no interchange of thought to 
renew the vital forces ; the social system gradually became foul and stagnant, like 
the floodwaters that lodge in the depressions of a level plain. 

Trade was doubtless held in high honour, so much so that caravans could 
traverse the land without danger even in time of war ; but the trafEc was always 
confined to the beaten tracks affording communication between the plateau and 
the lower zones on both slopes. Thus shut out from free intercourse with distant 
countries, Mexican civilisation was unable to find the elements of renewed life 
within itself, with the result that the people gradually lost all spirit of enterprise, 
enslaved by traditional and increasingly oppressive formularies. A rigid etiquette 
regulated all relations between the classes, and society became, so to say, petrified, 
while public worship grew more and more atrocious. 

Yet at its origin the Mexican religion had been exempt from all sanguinary 
rites. The first of the gods, bearing the name of Teotl, in a pre-eminent sense 
was Atonatiuh, the " Sun of the Waters," whose rays, heating the seas, caused all 
things to rise out of chaos. Tlaloc, issue of the sun, yearly reviver of the spring- 
tide, is the trade- wind bearer of the fertilising rains, the bird that comes from the 
sea, the snake that glitters in the lightning flash, and glides into the fissures of 
the earth, emblem of the running waters. 

At the time when the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlan, the memory was still 
preserved of a mild religion, at which suiDpliants offered to " Father Sun," to 
"Mother Moon," to " Brother Earth, " and to the wind-god nothing but seeds and 
fruits, to obtain a blessing on the future crops. Hopes were even cherished that, 
in a coming age of gold, these placid rites might yet be restored ; at least they 
were associated with the advent of another Tlaloc, Quetzacoatl, the "Plumed 
Serpent," who comes from the east with the east wind and thither returns. 



Many of the vanquished nations, such as that of the Totonacs, groaned under 
the burden of having to supply human victims to the Mexican gods, ■while their 
own divinitv, " Mother of Men," demanded only seeds and flowers. Even in the 
Aztec temple of Texcoco, raised by Xezahualcoyotl to the " unknown god," public 
worship was confined to the burning of incense at the altar of the deity. But 
elsewhere wars, and the practice of adding captives to the other offerings, had 

Fig. 2S.— AKnnciAL PrsAinD of Cholttla. 

gradually imposed a religion of blood on the whole Xahua nation. !Xot the 
symbol of life, represented by the first-fruits of the earth, but life itself has now to 
be incessantly offered on the altars of the gods. Even when corn was presented 
it had first to be reduced to a paste, kneaded with the blood of children and 
maidens ; a dough was also prepared from the ashes of the fathers mingled with 
the flesh of their offspring. 

To appease the wrath of the wicked gods, to avert the evil machinations of the 


unseen world, the Mexicans had recourse to sacrifices, in this differing in no way 
from Aryans, Semites, Negroes, and all other races. But their saiiguinary rites 
probably surpassed in horror those even of Dahomey itself. Even the most timid 
practised self-torture like the fakirs of the East and the Aissawas of Algeria ; 
they scarified their flesh with the cruel maguey thorn ; they prolonged their 
fastings for days together ; they abstained from sleep till the mind wandered. 

The Benedictine friar, Camillo de Monserrate, explained the dento-liquid sounds 
tt, etl, which seem so strange to most European ears, by the Mexican habit of 
piercing the tongue with large cactus thorns during their fits of religious frenzy ; 
thus he supposed might have been produced a sort of stammering which became 
hereditary in the course of ages. 

But it was maiuly by proxy that they sought to conjure the caprice of the 
gods ; the stain of sin was vicariously cleansed by immolating alien victims. In 
the Old World, which abounds in animals of all kinds, their blood was usually 
regarded as sufiiciently efiicacious. But on the Mexican plateaux there was little 
except men to torture and mangle in honour of the jealous deities. Human hearts 
were torn from the still-warm breast by the gory hands of priests, and held up 
towards the invisible spirits. To Tlaloc were immolated sucklings or children 
killed with fright, and their flesh was then consumed by the nobles at a religious 
banquet. The necropolis of Tenenepanco, discovered by Charnay, at an altitude of 
over 13,000 feet, on the northern slopes of Popocatepetl, contained nothing but the 
remains of hundreds of children, probably the victims offered to Tlaloc, god of the 
lofty heights, whence descend the winds and the clouds. 

At the great ceremonies, blood was shed in torrents to flood the trenches dug 
round the teocaUi, that is, the temples, literally "God's house." Towards the 
close of the fifteenth century, at the consecration of the great temple of Mexico to 
Huitziloputzli, the war-god, which had been begun by his predecessor Tizoc, King 
Ahuizotl immolated nearly eighty thousand captives. But despite the statement 
of the chronicles, this tremendous butchery must have been made, not on one 
occasion, but at numerous successive ceremonies, as has been shown by Charnay. 

Each sovereign, on ascending the throne, had to begin his reign by a vast 
man-hunting expedition, in order to provide food for all the sacred shambles ; 
each of the eighteen months of the year had to be blessed by a massacre. Accord- 
ingly " holy wars " had been formerly established by treaty between the various 
states in order to secure sufiicient victims for the altars. 

Every temple washed its foundations in the blood of captives mingled with 
offerings of the precious metals, of pearls and the seeds of all useful plants. These 
temples, stained with black gore, full of human flesh, fresh, charred or decomposed, 
presented a ghastly spectacle ; some were entered through a door in the form of a 
throat, in which thousands of skulls lined the jaws of the monster. Close by rose 
pyramids, " each containing over a hundred thousand skulls." 

One of the yearly feasts was that of the " flaying," when the priests traversed the 
various quarters of the city clad in the dripping skins of the victims. But the 
very multitude of the offerings rendered the gods insatiable, and their wretched 



devotees sought for still nobler subjects to propitiate tbem. In the Christian 
religion, a Son of God, God Himself, expiated the sins of the elect on the cross ; 
but those who crucified Him vreve at least unconscious of His divinity. The 
ilexicans, on the contrary, created gods to immolate them to still more powerful 
deities. During the great national ceremonies, a scion of the royal house would 
not have satisfied them ; they required a son of God, and the young men whom 
they offered up were raised by them to the divine rank. Before slaying these 
gods incarnate, the priests followed in the triumphal procession, falling down in 
worship before them. Then, after the sacrifice, those who tasted of the sacred 
flesh, and who " ate god," as indicated by the very name of the feast, assimilated 
the divine substance, and thought they thus became participators in the nature of 
the gods. Such was the hideous form that " god-eating" had assumed in Mexico. 
Such religious practices were naturally completed by a ferocious legislation, 

yet the people seem to have been of an extremely kind disposition, mild and 
affectionate. " My dear son, my jewel, my fair feather ! " thus spoke the 
mother to her child. According to Ixtlixochitl, a theft exceeding in value seven 
maize cobs was pimished with death. For whole commtmities, a violent seemed 
far more probable than a natural ending ; this alone would sufficiently explain the 
sense of sadness that had fallen on this unhappy nation, from which the divine 
favour seemed to be withdrawn in inverse ratio to the number of their victims. 

The emperor Xezahualcoyotl, sovereign of Texcoco, the crowned poet, who 
staked his throne on a throw of dice, to show how little he cared for power, this 
emperor expressed the tmiversal sentiment when he depicted "the approaching 
day when the gloomy fate, the great destroyer will be revealed." Even the 
Spanish conquest, with the massacres and other scourges which accompanied it, 
and the servitude by which it was followed, was a relief for the nations of Anahuac j 


it rescued them from a hopeless fatalism ; it introduced them, though douhtless 
through a thorny path, into the new world of common human interests. 

This era of transformation began in a terrible way for the populations of 
Anahuac. The Spanish conquerors acted in Mexico as they had acted in the 
Antilles ; they massacred the natives that resisted, and reduced the survivors to a 
state of merciless slavery. " A long experience," said Peter Martyr Anghiera, 
" has shown the necessity of depriving these men of freedom and giving them 
guides and protectors." Thanks to these "protectors," whole provinces were 
nearly depopulated in a single generation. The siege of Mexico, " where men 
were numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore," is said to 
have cost the lives of 150,000 persons ; and according to Pimentel, the native 
population of Nueva Galicia, which has become the present state of Jalisco, was 
rapidly reduced from 450,000 to 12,600. 

In the swift work of conquest and enslavement, the Spaniards were aided by 
the very apathy of the wretched inhabitants themselves. The conquered multi- 
tudes, whom their former masters had crushed beneath an intolerable burden of 
oppressive laws and statute labour, seemed indifferent to a change of tyrants. 
They even found it easier to bend the neck to the yoke of the demi-gods armed 
with thunder, than to rulers of their own race. 

The change, or at least apparent change of religion which went on, so to say, 
simultaneously with the conquest, was also effected without difScxilty. When 
the Franciscan Friars, soon followed by the Dominicans and Augustinians, offered 
to the Mexican populations the baptism that cleanseth from sin, a rite which 
in any case scarcely differed from the analogous purifications of the Aztec religion, 
the surprising success of their propaganda is not to be exclusively attributed to 
their prestige 'as conquerors, or to the support which they received from the secular 
arm. Allowance shoidd doubtless also be made for the happiness of being at last 
released from the terrorism that the native religions had imposed on the people. 

Toribio de Benavente relates that nine million Indians were baptised during 
the fifteen first years that followed the conquest. The priests found themselves 
surrounded by hundreds of kneeling suppliants, and such was the eagerness of the 
candidates " suffering from the thirst of baptism," that the oificiating clergy lacked 
the time to perform the prescribed ceremonies, and satisfied themselves with 
moistening the brow of the neophytes with a little saliva. The names of saints 
supplied by the calendar no longer sufficing, the Indians were grouped in batches 
each of which received collectively the same name. 

Apart from the sanguinary rites the two religions differed so little in their 
outward forms that the natives felt little difficulty in conforming to both. When 
called iipon to overthrow their idols, and rejjlace them, in the same temples and on 
the same sites, with the statue of the Madonna and her Child, the caciques had 
merely to set up the image of Tecleciguata, the " Great Lady," and the change 
was effected. But no crucifix was erected, says the Dominican monk, Eemesal, 
"because the Spaniards, claiming immortality for themselves, were reluctant to 
teach the neophytes that their God could die." 


Multitudes accepted baptism without any intention of abandoning tbeir old 
rites, and continued long to celebrate the pagan mysteries in the depths of the 
forests. Thus a chapel was built and a cross set up immediately above the spot 
where had been hidden the proscribed image of an idol. TVhen boM^ing before 
the cross it was to the god that they addressed their invocations. 

But by force of habit the two cults became gradually merged in one ; at present 
when any of the old idols happen to be disinterred, it is in perfect good faith that 
the natives call them sanfos antiguos, " old saints." The same pious souls that 
crowd the Christian churches and devoutlj^ kiss the relics of the martyrs, secretly 
assemble in the woods to crown the images of the former deities with garlands. 

But the conversions, in virtue of which they could claim to be the spiritual 
brethren of the " Christians," that is, of the Spaniards, did not raise the natives to 
a position of equality with their conquerors. In the converts the latter at first 
saw only inferior beings, useful especially when dead, as their fat then served to 
staunch the wounds of men and horses. They addressed the natives whip in band, 
and even in the lifetime of Bernal Diaz a new saj'ing had become current amongst 
the whites : " Donde nace el Indio nace el hejuco ! " or, as we might say, " Where the 
Indian is born there grows the cane." Even in recent times the poet Galvan 
could exclaim : " I am an Indian, that is, a worm cowering in the grass, avoided 
b}^ all hands, crushed by all feet." Accordingly the children of the Aztecs may 
well have more than once sighed for the old order of things. " Why were we 
happier in the days of barbarism and debasement than since our conversion to your 
faith ? " the elders of a native community asked Bishop Zumarraga. 

The period immediately following the conquest was the most terrible for the 
natives. At first some districts were transformed almost to solitudes by those 
maladies which nearly always break out when distinct races are brought suddenly 
into contact. The first epidemic of smallpox, said to have been introduced 
by a negro in the expedition of Narvaez, and which struck down Cuitlahuatzin, 
Montezuma's successor, was more destriictive than the SjDanish arms. 

But far more terrible was the matlazahuatl, probably scarlet fever, which raged 
in 1576, and which, according to Torquemada, carried o£E nearly two millions in the 
dioceses of Mexico, Michoacan, Puebla and Oaxaca. In a period of two hundred 
and seventy-five years as many as seventeen great epidemics visited Mexico, from 
all of which the Spaniards remained exempt. According to the missionaries the 
race itself seemed to have become physically decayed, as if doomed to extinction. 

Those who escaped the plague were more than decimated by the oppressive 
burdens imposed on them. Although protected from slavery properly so called by 
the " laws of the Indies," they still remained serfs attached to the soil, and thus 
fell in tens of thousands with the large estates into the hands of the religious 
orders by which they had been converted, or else into those of the great capitalists 
the responsibility of the proprietors being in all cases merely a legal fiction. I^or 
were the laws themselves enforced, for the province of Panuco was nearly depopu- 
lated by its own governor, Nufio de Guzman, who openly sold men and women to 
the traders from the Antilles, after first branding them with the hot iron. 



Under the Aztec regime tlie lack of pack animals had introduced the custom of 
making captives and outcasts tlamcmes, or carriers, for the transport of goods and 
supplies. This service the}' continued to perform under the Spanish administration, 
though the law fixing the load at " two arrobas," or about sixty pounds, was too 
often violated. The landed proprietors, more ignorant than the natives of the 
climatic conditions, often employed bands of porters in zones where the tempera- 
ture was fatal ; those descending from the plateaux perished in thousands on the 
hot coastlands, while others, transferred to the bleak uplands, yielded to the cold. 

But while the race of aborigines was rapidly diminishing and even disappear- 
ing in certain districts, another race, that of the Mestizoes, was being developed 
and acquiring over-increasing imi^ortance. The conquerors, having brought no 
women with them, soon formed alliances with the natives, Cortes setting the 

Scale 1 : 4,000,000. 

.«o™.«„ 'J-^jlA. ^^A^ k-M,^ ^ \^ 


^t^Vgf.^- -^.^4te.„- ^,./..^v. 

/ ) 


60 Miles.; 

example by his connection with Malitzin or Dona Marina, who proved so useful 
in times of extreme peril. All his captains and soldiers were presented with 
native wives ; all Indian chiefs, whether pleading for favour or concluding an 
alliance, sealed the treaty by cementing unions between the new arrivals and the 
women of his household or kindred ; every tribe suing for peace brought women 
as presents for the conquerors. 

Even after the conquest the adventurers and traders attracted to the New 
World by the fame of the treasures of Mexico were seldom accompanied by 
Spanish helpmates ; hence most of the unions continued to be made with native 
women, despite the decrees which declared null and void all grants of land made 
to whites who left their wives behind them. Thus the Mestizoes continued rapidly 
to increase, and soon outnumbered the Spaniards. 

In ordinary language this term " Mestizo " indicates rather the class than the 
origin, and is applied exclusively to the proletariates who do not keep aloof from 



















the Indian communities. But taking it in its true sense, the Mestizo element 
may be said at present to constitute over four-fifths of the population. Even 
the "^nld" Indians are slightly mixed, while the so-called "pure" whites -will 
occasionally boast of their descent from the ancient rulers of the land. Ko less 
than three families jealously preserve in Mexico and Spain the records tracino- 
their lineage back to Montezuma. 

On the other hand the African element never acquired any importance in 
Mexico, although negroes were introduced fi"om the first years of the conquest. 
But after an insurrection, suppressed by drastic measures, the Spanish landowners 
were forbidden to purchase Africans in order to replace the natives. In any case 
the black race coiild scarcely have become acclimatised in the cold regions of the 
plateau. At present the negroes are almost exclusively confined to the towns of 
the seaboard, and these have come for the most part from Cuba and Jamaica. 
In the whole of Mexico they do not appear to exceed 20,000 persons. 

During the three centuries of colonial administration between the fall of 
Tenochtitlan and the proclamation of Mexican independence, the one great 
event in the national history may be said to have been this slow formation of 
the Mestizo race from Nahua and Iberian elements. Doubtless the full-blood 
Spaniards, constituting the first social caste, continued to keep haughtily aloof, 
claiming the exclusive right to the title of ge»fe de razon, or "rational beings." 
But they were divided amongst themselves; to the Spaniards born in the 
Peninsula were reserved the lucrative offices, as well as all honours and authority. 
But the Creoles, however pure their blood, however great their merits, were 
kept in the background ; they were even refused admittance to a large number 
of the monastic establishments. By the very fact of their birth in the Xew 
World they seemed to have almost ceased to be Spaniards and were insulted 
at every turn. But this treatment was bitterly resented, and until recently the 
term usually applied to the Spaniards by birth was Gachupines, derived from two 
Xahuatl words meaning "Men of the Spurs." "JTuerau Jos Gachiqrines" ("Death 
to the Gachupines ! ") was the war-cry of the insiirgents. 

The Indians properly so called, whether wild or mamos, that is, "civilised," 
were also regarded as inferiors, beings intermediate between man and animals. 
On some rare occasions acts of courage or devotion might perhaps earn for a 
native recegnition as a brother, and then he was raised to the rank of homhre 
bianco or " a white," as if great qualities were incompatible with the nature of 
the red man. But the true feeling was embodied in the current Mexican saying 
that an Indian would never rule the land so long as there remained a muleteer 
from La Mancha or a Castilian cobbler. 

However, the lack of "reason" attributed to the natives at least exempted 
them after about the middle of the eighteenth century from the privilege of 
being burnt by the Inquisition. They were regarded as possessing too little 
human responsibility for their heresies to rouse the anger of the Inquisitors. But 
the terrible tribunal had long been at work, and three years after its introduction 
in 1571 had begun operations by an auto-da-fe of five persons. 



It should be noticed that the transitions between Spaniards and Mestizoes, 
between Mestizoes and Manses, are far less abrupt about the capital than in the 
northern regions, where the populations are scattered over a much wider area, 

Kg. 31. — Poet of SisuANTAifEO. 
Scale 1 : 42,000. 


Wesr F Gfe enAficK 




5 to 10 


10 to 25 

25 Fatlioms 
and upwards. 

. 2,200 Yards. 

and where the divisions between the races are more sharply drawn. In those 
regions miscegenation has taken place to a smaller extent ; till recently the 
struggle between the hostile elements was still continued, and was occasionally 
attended by massacres on both sides. 

THE spa:^ish administration. 77 

The exclusive mercantile system to wLich the country was subjected during 
the Spanish rule had the effect, so to say, of sequestrating New Spain, and of 
concealing from the eyes of the world the changes that had been accomplished 
sLace the daj-s of the conquest. It was ia fact a system of absolute monopoly. 
From the standpoint of the Spanish Government, the Aztec populations existed 
only for the purpose of eni'iching the treasury and the commercial " farmers- 
general." But these vast monopolies, and the incessant manipulation of the 
customs, combined with the oppression and empoverishment of the natives, 
natui'ally resulted in. exhausting the sources of all trade. 

All violation of the fiscal laws was severely punished, and often involved the 
death of the offender. All trading relations with strangers were interdicted 
under pain of death ; even shipwrecked mariners were thrown into prison, and 
occasionally even executed, to prevent them from entering iuto commercial 
relations with the natives ; the very highways leading seawards were systematic- 
ally abandoned, and the Mexican seaboard became a wilderness. Thus the 
EngKsh navigator, George Anson, warned by the Indians of the neighboui-hood, 
was able to put into the port of Siguantaneo (Zehuatanejo), between the two 
hostile garrisons of Zacatula and Acapulco, and wait quietly for the sailing of 
the valuable galleon freighted with ingots for Manilla. 

The system was at last pushed so far that the fleet destined for Spain was only 
allowed to sail every third j'ear, and to make for any other port but Seville or 
Cadiz was declared to be a crime against the State. The search for quicksilver 
mines was prohibited in order to maintain the monopoly of the Almaden mines in 
the south of Spain. TiU the year 1803, the Mexicans were forbidden to cultivate 
the vine ; it has even been asserted that Hidalgo first raised the standard of revolt 
in the Dolores district, because this revolutionary parish priest had been compelled 
to destroj' his vineyards. The olive was also interdicted, as well as many other 
plants whose products might replace those introduced from Spain ; even these 
were imported only in small quantities to keep up the tariff of high prices. 

At one time the people were forbidden to brew any more pulque, the national 
drink extracted from the maguey plant, the sale of which interfered with that of the 
Catalanian brandies. In the same way certain trades were officially abolished as 
being prejudicial to the national industries of the Peninsula, or rather to the 
interest of a few private speculators. Even so late as 1819 a royal decree pro- 
hibited foreign vessels from entering the port of Yera Cruz " under any pretext." 

Such an administration could end only in the total ruin of the colony, or in a 
revolution. The moment the mother coimtry became engaged in a war of inde- 
pendence against the French, and was thus obliged to leave her ultramarine posses- 
sions almost entirely to themselves, a change of the political equilibrium became 
inevitable. The imprisonment of the Si^anish Viceroy, Itturigara}', in 1806, by 
the other members of the State Council, may be said to have been the first act in 
the Mexican Revolution. 

Doubtless the Creoles were far from being unanimous in their opposition to the 
old order of things, and many even allowed themselves to be seduced by titles. 


privileges, or money. But they entertained the most divergent views on the 
general situation. The more daring ventured to foster the idea of independence, 
which to others seemed a dream, while the majority aspired to nothing higher 
than a share in the administration of their native land, and the abolition of the 
absolute commercial monopoly enjoyed by the Cadiz traders. 

On the other hand the great bulk of the native poioulation felt little interest 
in the form of government. What they wanted was the possession of the land, a 
little light to relieve their gloomy lives, a modest share of liberty. Under the 
Sjianish regime they had never attempted to revolt, although for two hundred years 
after the conquest the armed forces consisted only of the Viceroy's bodyguard ; even 
under the Bourbon dynasty the " greens " — as the regular troops were called, from 
the green facings of their uniforms — never exceeded 6,000 infantry and cavalry. 

Nevertheless the Indians themselves had also a vague instinct of political inde- 
pendence, as is evident from the persistent legend about King Montezuma. The 
name itself they obviously learnt from the Spaniards ; but they eagerly rallied 
round it as a watchword, and adopted his colours, blue and white, for their 
standard of battle. To him were attributed all the ruined monuments of the 
country, and it was said that, like a second Quetzalcoatl, he slept in some cavern 
awaiting the great day of national awakening. We know with what fury the 
natives fought during the early days of the revolution. Impelled by the frenzy 
of certain triumph, armed with nothing but clubs or knives, they fell upon solid 
regiments of well-equipped troops ; they even threw themselves on the guns in 
order to stop the touch-holes with their rags or straw hats. 

Such was the confusion of ideas and of factions caused by the prevailing 
ignorance, and the long debasement of the populations, that the revolution began 
by a rising of some fanatical Indians of Dolores, " in the name of the holy reli- 
gion and of the good King Ferdinand VII." On the other hand the insurgents 
suffered their iirst defeat by troops composed of Creoles and led by a Creole. 

In 1813, two years after the first conflict, independence was for the first time 
proclaimed by a congress of refugees wandering from mountain to mountain. 
But this voice of freedom sounded like blasphemy to those accustomed to servitude, 
and the moderate party hastened to return to obedience. No Indians in the more 
remote provinces had risen, and the seat of war had hitherto been confined to the 
central districts, which were more densely peopled than elsewhere. The insur- 
gents no longer formed regular armies, and had been reduced to mere guerilla 
bands ; nearly all their prominent leaders had been shot, or were lurking in the 
woods and marshes ; all seemed lost when, in 1817, Mina, a Spaniard twenty-eight 
years of age, who had already fought bravely for freedom in Spain, crossed the seas 
and devoted himself to the same cause in llexico against his own fellow-countrymen. 

But after gaining a few victories he also perished, and the struggle for inde- 
pendence, so fiercely begun in 1811 by the priest Hidalgo and his extemporised 
armies, was reduced to a handful of outlaws and brigands. Nevertheless the old 
regime suddenly fell with a crash, so to say, under its own weight at the very 
time when the Viceroy Apodaca was proclaiming the final restoration of order in 




1820, and when the victorioiis Spamsh forces were sweeping the last " herds " of 
rebels before them. To effect the transformation all that was needed was the 
treason of the ambitious Colonel Iturbide, in whom destiny " selected the least 
worthy to be the successftJ champion of independence." 

Scale 1 : 11,I>X>,0». 

ihu. ^N^V'V WWi^J^:. 

\test o"" bi-eenvv^c^ 

1S6 Miles. 

Now the whole nation enthusiastically adopted the " plan of Iguala," that is 
to say, the project of a new constitution proposed in the town of Iguala, de- 
manding full and complete autonomy for the Mexican people under a monarchical 
form of government. The new order of things was accepted throughout the 
whole extent of the land, and the capital itself was suiTendered by O'Donoju, 


last of the viceroys. This was in 1821, and two years later the republic was at 
last proclaimed. 

The vcrj'- term Guadalupcs given to the insurgents in opposition to that of 
Gachupines, by which the Spaniards were known, is a pioof of the influence exer- 
cised by the clergy over the bulk of the Mexican population. The multitudes of 
native rebels were regarded merely as devout pilgrims enrolled under the banner 
of the Madonna of Guadalupe, whose worship had been confounded with that of 
Toci or Tonantzin, the " Notre-Dame " of the Aztecs. 

But the priests, like the other whites, were themselves divided into factions 
according to their origin, alliances, wealth or poverty. Hidalgo, who first raised 
the standard of revolt, was a Creole priest with a mixture of Indian blood. Morelos, 
another priest, was the chief hero of the war on the side of the national party. 
Even a nun, Maria Quitana, was seen to leave the convent and take part in the 
struggle. But bishops and the officers of the Inquisition had in the name of the 
Pope hurled excommunications against the rebels, and it was in honour of the 
Church that on Good Friday in 1814, Iturbide, at that time in the service of Spain, 
caused several of these excommunicated patriots to be shot. 

Hence the clergy were unable to contribute towards fostering such a common 
national sentiment as might have ensured internal peace. On the other hand the 
political revolution was of no service in improving the condition of the native 
peasantry, for it made no change in the system of land tenure. The soil still con- 
tinued, as heretofore, to be monopolised by the great proprietors, whose power 
was exercised over hundreds or thousands of the agricultural jDopulation. Doubt- 
less an agrarian revolution seemed imminent at the very outset of the insurrection, 
when the domains of the Spaniards were sequestrated in the name of the nation, 
and were freely occupied by the Indians. But the whites forming part of the 
rebel forces hastened to put a stop to these confiscations, which might have had 
fatal consequences, and the elements of the social struggle were thus maintained on 
the same lines as before. 

These profound inequalities, which largely coincide with racial distinctions, 
sufficiently explain the state of chronic revolution which was the normal condition 
of Mexico for the half-century following the proclamation of independence. The 
nation sought without finding some new principle of economic equilibrium. By a 
curious parallelism each civil war corresponded to a fresh outbreak both in Spain 
itself and in her other revolted colonies, as if the dismembered branches of the old 
empire were still connected by a common social life. 

In Mexico the accomplishment of national imity is aU the more difficult that a 
considerable section of the Indians are associated with the civilised populations 
only in terms of official documents. None of the natives still grouped in tribes 
living apart in remote provinces, speaking the old languages, and practising the old 
customs, can be regarded as yet forming part of the Mexican nation. But they 
become assimilated in increasing numbers from year to year, thanks to the develop- 
ment of education, industrial centres and highways traversing their territory. 
Even the Indians of the Califoruian peninsula who are most removed from the 


centre of Mexican civilisation have acquired a knowledge of Spanish, and those 
settled in the vicinitj" of the missions and the mining stations differ in no respects 
from the Indios inansos in other parts of the territory. But they are a mere handful, 
scarcely mustering 3,000 altogether, and the Pericu tribe, recently mentioned as 
still living at the southern extremity of the peninsula, has completely disappeared. 
The other two who still survive, Cochimi in the north, and Guaicuri (Guayacura) 
in the middle, of the peninsula, are related to the Arizonian Yumas, and, like them, 
formerly occupied the northern plains which are now inhabited by the Cocopas, 
and from which they were gradually driven west of the Colorado. 

Both Cochimi and the Guaicuri lead an extremely nomad existence, shifting their 
camping grounds at least a hundred times during the year. At night they shelter 
themselves against the wind under some brushwood or line of rocks, but their only 
roof is the canopy of heaven, though a few dens or lairs are constructed for their 
sick. Formerly the Cochimi regarded with shame any kind of raiment ; but they 
wore necklaces and bracelets, and encircled the head with an arrangement of skins, 
reeds, or feathers. 

The Cochimi and all other tribes of Lower California are grouped by Pimentel 
with the Xahua family, that is, with the Aztecs, on the ground of their physical 
appearance and speech. But other authorities hold that the Lower Californian 
languages show no resemblance to Aztec or any other known language. 

Nearly all the Indians occupying the north-western region of ^Mexico, from the 
Arizonian frontier to the moimtains skirting the right bank of the Eio Lerma, 
belong to a widespread family commonly named from the Pimas and the Opatas, 
two of their most powerful groups. The term Pimeria, or " Pima-land," is even 
still, though incorrectly, applied to the north part of Sonora. The conventional 
frontier laid down between the American and llexican republics is not an ethnical 
parting-line, and north of it the Pimas and the kindred Papagosare, in fact, repre- 
sented in the largest numbers. 

The Opatas also, who are said still to number 35,000 souls, dwell especially in 
the Sierra iladre in the upland valleys of the Sonora and Taqtii rivers. They are 
an agricultural people, who have been half assimilated to the Spaniards, and who 
have always sided with the whites in the racial wars. Hence the ilexican writers 
have always praised their valotir, sobriety and steadfastness, and have given them 
the title of " American Spartans." 

The Yaqui and ilayo tribes, who occupy the east side of the Gulf of California, 
that is, the almost desert regions watered by the two rivers named from them, are 
fully as brave as the Opatas, but they are no friends of the whites, and have even 
frequently risen in revolt. In 1825, after the proclamation of ilexican indepen- 
dence, they also proclaimed their own autonomy, and declared themselves exempt 
from all taxes. Since that time their territory has remained somewhat inacces- 
sible to strangers. 

Yet the Yaquis and Mayos, who are sometimes collectively called Cahitas from 
their common language, are by no means a numerous nation, probably not 
exceeding 20,000 altogether. Despite the wars they have had to wage against 




the whites, they are naturally of a peaceful disposition, energetic, and industrious. 
Like the Kabyles of Algeria, their young men emigrate every year in large 
numbers, seeking employment in the farmsteads of Sonora or Sinaloa, or as 
porters and menials in the towns. But they still remain attached to their homes, 
and those who are not too far removed make an annual visit to their native valleys. 
They are said to be excellent musicians, and, like the Hungarian gipsies, learn to 
play the fiddle, guitar, or harp, merely by listening to the village minstrels. 

The Sori people of Tiburon Island and the neighbouring mainland appear to 
form a distinct subdivision, with a few other scattered family groups known by 
various names. Orozco y Berra has compared them with the Caribs, adding that 

'Fig. 33. — Chiep Native Poptjlationb in Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 30,000,onr). 


620 Miles. 

he would not be surprised to find that they belong to the same race. These 
natives, who are now reduced to a mere fragment, defended their homes and 
valleys with great vigour ; their poisoned arrows especially were much dreaded, 
and Spanish expeditions had often carefully to avoid their territory. 

Amongst the numerous north-western populations the Tarahumaras, or 
Tarumaros, are one of the most remarkable for the tenacity with which they have 
preserved their ancient customs. The inhabitants of Chihuahua give the name of 
Tarumaros to all the mansos, or " civilised " Indians, of the state ; but the true 
Tarahumaras, who still number about 40,000, live in seclusion in the upland 
valleys of the Sierra Madre on both the Atlantic and Pacific slopes. Their 
villages, most of which end in the syllable c/«c — "place," "town" — are scattered 
over the highland region of the three states of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Sinaloa, 
and according to Pimentel penetrate even into Durango. 


Some of their groups are still cave-dwellers, and numerous caverns are shown 
which were formerly inhabited. According to many writers the old troglodytic 
customs explain the legend of the Aztecs regarding their residence in the " Seven 
Caves." The Tarahumaras who have settled in the towns of the whites now 
speak the language of their rulers ; but the full-blood communities of the Sierra 
Madre have preserved their old tongue. 

Discovered in their remote retreats by the Jesuit missionaries at the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, the Tarahumaras have never offered any serious 
opposition to the Mexican Government ; nevertheless they have always refused to 
accept Spanish institutions. According to the traditional custom marriages are 
contracted after a novitiate of the bride in her future husband's house and under 
the surveillance of his parents. The land has been preserved from confiscation, 
and is still held in common. Each group of villagers is collective proprietor, and, 
as in the Russian mir, the arable land is parcelled out amongst the families 
according to their numbers. One portion is reserved for the sick and aged, and 
this is cultivated by all the members of the community in their turn. The maize, 
wheat, haricot beans, potatoes, and other produce are then stored in a public 
granary imder the eyes of the more honoured men and women of the village, and 
the residents draw what they require from this common store. 

They call themselves " Christians " and erect a cross at the foot of their fields 
at sowing time ; but the parish priest is not allowed to assist at the feast, which 
concludes with the sacrifice of a sheep or a calf. Those of the southern districts 
near the common frontier of Chihuahua, Sonora, and Sinaloa, are said still to 
practise the old religion. They keep entirely aloof from the Mexicans, and when 
their villages are forcibly invaded, they refuse to answer the questions put to them 
by the intruders. They decline all payment for the provisions they may be called 
upon to supply, and even allow their cabins to be plundered without protest ; in 
fact the only force they understand is that of passive resistance. 

They are said to be a gloomy, sullen people ; nevertheless when they fear no 
disturbance to the national feasts they amuse themselves cheerfully, and " dance 
with their gods." They are specially fond of tilting and racing, whence their 
tribal name, which is said to mean " Runners," though the etjTnology is somewhat 
doubtful. At times whole tribes spend days in contending for the prize, women 
with pitchers of water being stationed at regidar intervals along the course to 
revive those overcome by fatigue. 

Some of the southern valle3-s of the Sierra Madre are inhabited bj- the remains 
of another Indian nation, the Tepehuans, or "Lords of the Mountains," a name, 
however, to which they are no longer entitled. After some conflicts with the 
missionaries, they were almost exterminated by the Spaniards of Durango. These 
natives, who are now Christians, and gradually merging M-ith the populations of 
the Sierra, have in some districts preserved their language, which by certain 
authors is said to contain a large proportion of terms analogous to those of the 
North Asiatic tongues. 

The full-blood Tepehuans have a dull yellovv' complexion, prominent cheeki 



bones, and oblique eyelids, features wbicb are all cbaracteristic of the Kergbiz and 
Kalmuck types. Like some Siberian peoples, tbey also plait the bair in a single 
tress, ■wbicb falls over the nape of the neck. 

But whatever be said of the hypotheses affiliating these tribes to the Asiatics, 
both the Tepehuans and their southern neighbours, the Coras, have been classed 
by Buschmann and Orozco on linguistic grounds in the same family as the Pimas, 
Opatas, and Tarahumaras. On the other hand the Sabaibos, Acasees, and Xiximes 
of Durango, as well as the Conchos of Chihuahua, who dwell on the plain watered 
by the river Concho, would appear to be rather Nahuas. 

The space comprised between the Rio Grande and the east slope of the Sierra 
Madre belongs to the various Apache tribes, who form a separate family related 
in speech to the Athabascans of the Mackenzie basin. Their name, which is 
probably of Opata origin, is said to mean " Bad Dogs" ; but they call themselves 
Shis luday, or " Men of the Woods." Till within a recent epoch, all the northern 
provinces of the republic were exposed to the raids of these ferocious Indians, and 
even in Durango, over 360 miles from the American frontier, crosses set up on 
the outskirts of the towns recalled the murders committed by the Apache savages. 
Districts which, during the first j'ears of the conquest, the Spanish troops were 
able to traverse without fighting, and where peaceful colonies had been founded, 
were afterwards invaded by the marauders, and all security disappeared beyond the 
fortified towns and stations. Journeys could be made only by large companies or 
caravans, and the armed men, whose track was followed by the savages lurking in 
the surrounding brushwood, took care not to lag behind the main body. 

How were these irrepressible foes to be got rid of ? Mounted on their swift 
and hardy horses, they could cover 60 or even 120 miles in a single day. 
Everywhere they found shelter in the cactus scrub or thickets, and the shepherd, 
aware of their presence, dare not betray them. The system of large lauded estates, 
which had brought about the invasion of Italy by the Barbarians, also facilitated 
the incursions of the Apaches by suppressing the little centres of culture and 
resistance formerly scattered over the land, by replacing tillage with stock-breed- 
ing, and lastly by leaving the defence of the country to mercenaries who had often 
strong inducements to come to an understanding with the plunderers. 

To get rid of the Apache robbers, a war of extermination was proclaimed 
against them. A pi-ice was put upon their heads, the tariff being regulated accord- 
ing to the age and sex of the slaiu. The Apaches on their part put to death all 
adult men that fell into their hands, sparing the women and children to recruit their 
bands, which, by this process of miscegenation, at last became a mongrel group 
of all tribes and races. In this atrocious war, it often happened that the heralds 
themselves were not spared. The military authorities, jealous of their privileges, 
contributed on their part to prolong the "reign of terror" by arrogating to them- 
selves the exclusive right of carrying on defensive operations, and absolutely 
prohibiting the municipalities from combining against the common enemy. But 
the regular troops proved insufficient for the task they had undertaken, and an 
appeal had to be made to foreign mercenaries. Thus in 1850 a band of Texans 



was enlisted in CMliualiua for the purpose of hunting down tlie Apactes ; but it 
was soon discovered that these dangerous allies found it more convenient to plunder 
peaceful travellers, and bring their scalps to the Government for the stipulated 
rewards. At last Indians were hurled against Indians, and the extermination 


of the Apaches was entrusted to their hereditary foes, the southern Comanches, 
who roamed over the Bolson de iTapimi plains. The few survivors have 
become shepherds, " cowboys," horse-dealers, even guards of the stations on the 
railways that now traverse their former hunting-grounds. 

The north-east region of ^Mexico comprised between the Rio Bravo and Tampico, 


and between the central plateaux and the Gulf of Mexico, has been an exclusive 
domain of Spanish speech since the last century. Scarcely any traces still survive 
of Nahua or other native languages, and the " one hundred and forty-eight 
nations " of Coahuila, the " seventy-two " of Tamaulipas, the " thirty-one " of 
Nuevo Leon, the Manosprietas, the Irritilas, Tamaulipecs, Cuachichils, and 
Zacotecs, have all been merged in the general mass of the Mestizo populations, 
abandoning their old usages and distinct idioms. Wherever the people were in 
the nomad state the native tongues almost invariably disappeared, but held their 
groimd much longer among the settled or agricultural classes. 

In the very neighbourhood of the capital the more secluded hiUs and upland 
valleys are still inhabited by scattered groups of the Otomi, an Indian nation 
which seems to have undergone little change since the epoch of Toltec rule. 
The designation of " Eed-haired " often applied to them has probably reference 
to their practice of dyeing the hair red when on the war-path. Round about 
Queretaro, which may be taken as the centre of their domain, they occupy nearly 
all the mountainous parts of the Anahuac plateau between San Luis Potosi and 
the Sierra Nevada; hence the term Serranos, or "Highlanders," commonly applied 
to them. 

The Otomi are estimated at over 600,000, including those who have exchanged 
their language for Spanish or Aztec, and at probably 1,000,000 if the Fame and 
Mazahua branches be included. Despite their name, which in Aztec means 
" Wanderers," the Otomi are a very sedentary people, little given to travelling 
except between their mountain villages and the market towns. 

Physically thoy have large heads with coarse black hair, swarthy complexion, 
heavy carriage, yet are excellent runners. By some writers these rude loutish 
populations have been regarded as the remains of an old Chinese colony, an 
hypothesis scarcely in accordance with the view that assigns a Chinese origin to 
the Aztec culture. The theory was first suggested by the fact that the Hia-Mu, 
that is, the "Old," as the Otomi language is called, is, Kke Chinese, almost entirely 
monosyllabic. The two languages also present numerous coincidences in their 
vocabularies ; but such coincidences are almost inevitable, the series of mono- 
syllabic words being naturally somewhat restricted or at least presenting far less 
diversity of form than that of polj^syllabic terms. 

In Michoacan, west and south-west of the capital, the bulk of the population 
are the Tarascans (Tarascos), who occupy nearly the whole of Michoacan itself, 
besides a small part of the neighbouring state of Guanajuato. But in various 
districts they are intermingled with the Otomi, the Mazahuas, the Matlaltzincas, 
as well as some more or less mixed descendants of the Aztecs. So recently as 
the beginning of the present century, the Tarascan language was still dominant 
in their territory, Spanish being almost unknown except in the towns ; it is 
even still the chief medium of intercourse in many rural districts ; but Spanish, 
being taught in the schools, is gradually prevailing. The Tarascans, formerly 
rivals of the allied Aztec race in general culture, were, like them, acquainted 
with pictorial writing, and even excelled them in some branches of industry. 



Theii- religion was also of a milder character, and sanguinary rites had been 
introduced only a short time before the Spanish conquest. They long held 
out valiantly against their Aztec " Fathers-in-law; " their own name (Tarhascue) 
had, according to Lagunas, the meaning of " Sons-in-law," and was said to have 
reference to their exogamous practice of taking their wives from their Aztec 

On the east slope of the plateau, facing the Gulf of Mexico, are found some 
groups of distinct populations isolated amid the surrounding Aztec people, who 

Kg. 35. — Chief KiiivE Races in Mexico. 
Scale I : 30.000,000. 


Aztecs. Mayas, Qaichds, 

Huaxtecs, Totonacs. Mems. 


Mis tecs. 


Opata-Cora. Otomi, &c. Zoqn^, Mixe. Cborotega. 

,^___^^^,^_^,^^_ 620 Miles. 

Chontals, &o. 

have become more or less assimilated to their Spanish rulers. Such are the 
Huaxtecs (Huastecos), that is, " Our Neighbours," so named in courtesy by the 
Aztecs, although, according to Pimentel, the term means " People of the Huaxi 
land," so called from a kind of fruit common In their territory. They occupy the 
northern part of the State of Vera Cruz, and stretch thence northwards to the 
plains watered by the lower course of the Tampico river. The Huaxtecs are allied 
In race and speech to the JIayas of Yucatan, although no tradition survives of 
the events by which they became severed from their southern kinsfolk. Judging 
from the archaic form of their language, Stoll concludes that they were the first 
who became isolated from the primitive ilaya group, and various names of places 


and peoples show that the Maya nation, at present confined to the Yucatan 
peninsula, formerly occupied the Tlaxcala plateau. 

On their southern frontier, that is, iu the hills whence flows the Rio Cazones, 
the Huaxtecs are conterminous with the Totonacs, that is, the " Three Hearts," 
eaid to be so named because they formerly made a solemn triennial sacrifice of 
three youths, whose hearts were offered to the gods. According to the national 
traditions the Totonacs also accomplished many peregrinations at an epoch even 
antecedent to the wanderings of the Chichimecs and Aztecs, and, like them, at last 
founded new homes on the Anahuac plateau, but more to the east. Most ethno- 
logists adopt the views of Sahagun, who groups the Totonacs in the same family 
with the Huaxtecs and Mayas, while other authorities regard them as quite 
distinct. Alphonso Pinart also makes a separate division of the few thousand 
Akal'mans, who appear to speak a peculiar language, and who live between the 
Huaxtecs and Totonacs in the northern part of the State of Hidalgo and in Vera 
Cruz, but chiefly round about the city of Huejutla. 

The last group of native races in Mexico proper beyond Chiapas and Yucatan 
is formed by the various Indian populations who dwell, to the number of about 
600,000, in the southern uplands and on the Pacific slope between the Acapulco 
district and the isthmus of Tehuantepec. Here the chief languages, which, how- 
ever, present but slight differences, are those of the Mixtecs and Zapotecs, that is, 
"People of Cloudland," and of the "Zapotas" {casimiroa cdulis). Like the 
Tarascans these nations were fully as civilised as the Aztecs, and it was their 
strong national sentiments that enabled them to offer a vigorous resistance to the 
Spaniards, and even to maintain a state of semi-independence down to quite recent 
times. Now, however, they form part of the common Mexican nationality, and 
by their energetic habits contribute as much as any other native element towards 
the general prosperity of the commonwealth. Spanish will soon take the place 
of the local languages as the medium of general intercourse, as it has already 
become that of popular instruction. The Mixes also, as well as the Zoques, the 
Chinantecs, and other peoples of East Oaxaca, who are usually grouped under the 
general name of Chontals, that is, " Savages," are being gradually absorbed in the 
mass of the civilised population. Their Mixe neighbours are said to have such a 
pool' language that it has to be supplemented by numerous loan words taken from 
the Spanish. Formerly they had to eke out the sense by means of gestures, so 
that after nightfall, or when the lights were put out, all conversation ceased. 

Doubtless many of the Atzec aborigines were in some respects inferior in 
culture to the ancient subjects of Montezuma. But, on the other hand, numerous 
tribes which formerly possessed no culture at all, have now entered the general 
movement of national development. In any case the multiplicity of idioms still 
current in Mexican territory, some spoken by a few hundred thousand, some only 
by a few thousand or even a few hundred persons, prevent all comparison between 
such many-tongued states, for instance, as Austria-Hungary or the Turkish 
Empire. Id these two states the current languages belong not to small groups, 
but to powerful nationalities all contending for supremacy in the very heart of the 


monarchy itself ; but in the Mexicau republic Spanish, recognised by all as the 
national language, is steadily and surely encroaching on all the others. But 
excluding the Aztec, Otomi, Tarascan, Mixtec, and Zapotec, the " one hundred 
and twenty " languages still current in Mexico are spoken only bj^ obscure and 
scattered communities of but slight numerical importance ; many of these are also 
actually disappearing, just as at least sixty have already disappeared since the 
arrival of the Spaniards in the country.* 

The indigenous populations differ so greatly in their origin and other respects 
that it is impossible to draw a general picture of the Mexican Indian equally 
applicable to all. The accounts given by various authors refer chiefly to those that 
are met along the highway between Yera Cruz and the capital and in the other 
more important towns on the plateau. In fact, these writers have almost exclu- 
sively taken as the typical representatives of the aborigines the more or less 
civilified Aztecs and the still barbarous or almost savage Otomi. On the elevated 
tablelands most of the natives have a skin soft as velvet to the touch, but so thick 
that it conceals as with a vesture all prominences and play of veins and muscles. 
The blood is not seen as through a transparencj' on the cheeks, except amongst the 
young girls, whose features are said at times to " beam like copper lit up by the 
sun." An extremely mild expression is imparted to the whole physiognomy by 
the cheekbones, which, though prominent, are still enclosed in a thick layer of 
flesh, by the nose with its wide nostrils, the tumid lips and rounded chin. The 
glance also acquires a highly characteristic expression from the peculiar disposition 
of the eyelids, the upper being scarcely curved above the median line of the eye, 
while the lower describes a more decided arch towards the cheek than is found in 
anj- other race. The skull is brachycephalic, this rounded form, however, being 
due in many districts to the custom of moulding the head of the infants on the 
inner curve of a calabash. The hair is black, coarse, and lank, like that of all full- 
blood American aborigines. 

A distinguishing feature of the upland populations is their broad and highly 
convex chest ; they are also noted for the great muscular strength of their legs ; 
when resting by the wayside or in their homes they squat down on their toes, and 
show no signs of fatigue even after hours of such an apparently uncomfortable 
posture. On journeys thej' always walk in single file, with a light springj' step in 
unison, and bent somewhat forward, as if to present their broad back to the 
burden. The attitude, in fact, is that of pack animals, and such was the condition in 
which they had been till recently kept by their Spanish taskmasters. The women 

• Chief languages spoken in Mexico proper, excluding Chiapas and Yucatan : — 
Nahnatl or Mexican (Aztec), mth Acaxee, Sabaibo, Xixime, Cochimi, Concho, and othermembers 

of the same family. 
Seri, Upanguaima and Guaima. 

Papago, Opata, Taqni, Mayo, Tarahumara, Tepehuan, Cora, &c. 
Apache or Tavipai, Navajo, Mescalero, Llanero, Lipan, &c. 
Otomi or Hia-hiu, Fame, Mazahua, &c. 
Huaxtec, Totonac. 
Tarascan, Matlaltzincan. 
Mixtec, Zapotec, Mixe, Zoqae, Chinantco. 


when kneeling, with motionless head and bust, fixed gaze, and upheaved chest, 
have the aspect of ancient Egyptian statues ; so striking is the resemblance that, in 
the language of Lucien Biart, " we dream despite ourselves of a possible kinship 
between the two peoples." The Mexican Indian is extremely frugal and regular 
in his almost exclusively vegetable diet, consisting mainly of beans, maize, 
pimento, and bananas. In the family circle he is fond of occasionally drinking to 
excess ; but whatever quantity of pulque or other intoxicating liquors he may take, 
he is never affected by delirium tremens. The natives suffer from few ailments, and 
those who escape from the convulsions and other disorders of infancy generally 
arrive at mature age, though seldom taking the trouble to count the years of their 
unchequered lives. 

Nevertheless the Indians who have kept aloof from the European and settled 
Mestizo communities, rejecting the culture and customs of civilised society, betray 
that appearance of gloom and incurable sadness which seems to hang over races 
destined to perish. They are always serious, silent if not sullen, and justly 
suspicious. They seek the solitude, and reluctantly quit their native homes, 
which are carefully enclosed by tall cactus hedges. Beyond their lowly hamlet 
with its belfry fondly raised by the villagers, nothing seems to awaken their 
curiosity. Nevertheless they follow with a furtive glance the man from whom 
they have suffered wrong ; they can dissemble while awaiting the opportunity for 

The half-castes, who tend more and more to constitute the bulk of the popula- 
tion, are on the whole of more graceful form and more delicate frame than the 
full-blood Indians. Like them, they have black and mostly lank hair, straight 
and at times slightly flattened nose, and depressed brow. But what the features 
lack in regular outline is always compensated by a kindly expression and winning 
smile. The articulations of hands and feet are extremely delicate, notwithstanding 
the tendency of the women to corpulence. It was stated at a recent meeting of 
the French Anthropological Society* that of all clients of the French glove- 
makers the Mexican and Peruvian Creoles have the smallest hands. The Mexican 
civilian is noted for his quiet, easy carriage ; he is always courteous even towards 
his most intimate friends ; unaffectedly polite even towards those against whom 
he may bear a grudge. But despite a clear intellect he seldom betrays any marked 
aptitude for any profession, and in youth he is easily led into dissipated, frivolous 
ways. He is open-handed, shares freely with his friends, and with a light 
heart will stake his all at a single hazard. "His purse burns," says a local 
proverb, to give some idea of the recklessness of the Mestizo, which contrasts so 
strangely with the greed of the pure Indian. Thus the Mixtecs and Zapotecs of 
Oaxaca, for instance, are said still to hide away all their savings, concealing them 
even from their own families, so that at the day of resurrection they may have 
all the enjoyment to themselves. A prodigious amount of treasure is supposed to 
lie buried in the ground in consequence of this practice, which, however, dates 
from pre-Christian times. Property accompanied its owner to the grave, and 

* February 6th, 1890. 


rich finds may vet be expected to be brougbt to light from the old burial-places 
in this region. 

The Spanish element amongst the iTestizo populations of the Mexican plateaux 
was drawn chiefly fi"om Galicia, Astui-ia, and the Basque country, whereas the 
settlers in the low-hing district of Vera Cruz were mostly Andalusians. Later 
came the Catalonians ; but at no period did this tide of immigration assimie any 
considerable magnitude, and it was arrested altogether during the war of independ- 
ence. A large proportion of the 50,000 Spaniards at that time living in the 
country were driven into exile, and then took place the opposite movement of a 
return to the old country. Since the revolution a small stream of emigration has 
again set towards Mexico, and especially towards the uplands ; amongst these 
more recent arrivals are many natives of France and Italy, as well as of Xorth 
Europe, and several thousand English and German settlers now reside on the 
eleyated plateaux of the cold zone. 

It was long supposed, on the faith of Humboldt's statement, that in Anahuac 
altitude compensated almost exactly for the more northern latitudes of Europe, 
and that consequently the European could here be rapidly and permanently 
acclimatised. " ^ith the exception of a few seaports and some deep yaUeys," 
wrote the great German naturalist, "Xew Spaia must be regarded as a highly 
salubrious country." Such it certainly is for the natives, who have become adapted 
to their environment from time immemorial. But the comparative researches of 
Joui'danet and other physiologists plainly show that northern and even southern 
Europeans cannot settle with impunity on the higher tablelands, where the 
barometric column stands normally at about 23 or 24 inches, consequently 
where atmospheric pressure is one-fifth less than at sea-level ; hence the lungs 
inhale in an hour about one ounce less of oxygen on these plateaux than on the 
coastlands. The stranger residing on the uplands, where he supposes himself 
to be acclimatised, nms more risk than the Indian, despite his greater attention to 
hygienic precautions. He has especially to dread the dry season, that is to say, tho 
three months of March, April, and May, when the aqueous vapour is insufficient to 
stimulate the respiratory functions. Children born of Europeans are usually frail 
waifs, difficult to rear and nearly always overtaken by premature old age. Even 
for the natives themselves the yearly increase of the population is far greater in 
the temperate than in the cold zone. The immigrants are more threatened on 
the plateatix than on the lower slopes ; those even who settle on the burning 
plains of the seaboard are relatively better armed after overcoming the yellow 
or marsh fevers, and thus become more acclimatised than their feilow-cotmtrymen 
on the elevated lands, where affections of the lungs, as well as dysentery and 
typhoid fevers, are more prevalent. 

On the seaboard phthisis is common enough, and often assumes a highly acute 
form, except in the swampy districts where, so to say, it is driven out by the 
marsh fevers. Thus these two formidable disorders divide the coastlands between 
them. Another terrible scourge on the shores of the Gulf and especially at Yera 
Cruz is yellow fever, which, though less frequent in winter, occasionally prevails 



at all seasons. It would almost seem as if this malady was unknown before the 
arrival of the Europeans in the country ; at least, medical men have failed to 
identify it with any of the other contagious epidemics mentioned in the history 
of Mexico. The first certain indication of its presence occurs so recently as the 
middle of the seventeenth century in connection with some extensive earthworks 
causing a disturbance of the soil. Its range is limited to about 3,300 feet on the 
eastern slope of the plateau, and cases are very rare above 2,500 feet. But the 
germs of the disease contracted on the coast may be developed on the uplands a few 
days after the arrival of the patient, and then it assumes a very dangerous form, 
frequently ending fatally. On the Pacific side the ports of Acapulco, San Bias, and 
Tehuantepec enjoy immunity from yellow fever, which, however, is replaced by a 

Fig. 36.— Peevailinq Diseases in Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 24,000,000. 

Cold Zone. 

Altitude of 2,300 feet, limit of Yellow Feyer. 
_____ 620 Miles. 

bilious fever, whose attacks are rarely dreaded by the indigenous populations. The 
vitiated taste which often develops a craving for earth, especially amongst the 
women, is common in South Mexico. Even on the plateaux little pastilles of a 
perfumed earth are exposed for sale at the markets, and never lack purchasers. 

Mexico is also noted for certain ailments which have been observed in no other 
part of the world. On the Atlantic slope, and especially at Orizaba, a serious 
affection occurs caused by the moyoquU, a species of insect whose larva, deposited 
under the skin, burrows into the flesh, where it raises a tumour as large as a hen's 
egg. It is cured by the application of a turpentine plaister, by which the sore is 
suppurated and the germ drawn out. Much more frequent is the so-called 2^into 
malady, which afEects whole populations, especially in the states of Guerrero and 
Oaxaca. This is a cutaneous affection which destroys the uniform colour of the 


skin, in one place raising a patcli of white on a black ground, in another a dirty- 
red on white ; then these patches gradually expand, often with a certain regularity, 
until the body becomes mottled over like a piebald horse or certain snakes and 
salamanders. Hence the tennjjinfo, or '•' painted," applied to this malady, which 
in many upland valleys prevails jointly with goitre over the whole commimity. 

Lo^wER Californli. 

Lower California, at once the most remote, and geographically the most 
distinct region of the republic, is at the same time the least important from the 
political standpoint. It may, in fact, be said to be useless, except as presenting 
a rampart of some 750 miles on the Pacific side of Mexican territory. "With a 
scant poptilation of little over 30,000, and with scarcely any resources beyond its 
mines, fisheries and salt-pits, it has not even been considered worthy of constitut- 
ing a separate state, and still remains a simple territory belonging in common to 
the whole commonwealth. It is so indifferently administered that the Korth 
Americans have frequently crossed the fi-ontier of the peninsula to work the 
deposits of ores and salt at their pleasure without even the formality of a previous 
concession. Extensive salt-beds were long known to stretch along the west coast 
round the shores of Sebastian Vizcaino Bay ; but basins of saline efflorescences are 
so numerous in other parts of ilexican territory that the Spaniards had no induce- 
ment to work these vast Califomian deposits. In 1884 some ilexican explorers 
risiting the inlet known as Ojo de Liebre from a neighbouring spring, discovered 
to their astonishment the remains of large mining works that had been constructed 
by some American speculators. Here were landing-stages, platforms, depots, 
railways, trucks, and other rolling stock, occupying altogether a space of over 3j 
miles. Evidently a large number of hands had been employed on the works ; yet 
the Mexican Government had never been informed of these extensive operations, 
either because of the remoteness of the peninsula and lack of local population or 
more probably owing to the remissness or venality of the officials. 

About half of the Lower Califomian population is concentrated towards the 
southern extremity of the peninsula, and chiefly in the vicinity of La Paz Bay. 
The provincial capital, founded by the Jesuit missionaries, stands in the bed of a 
waterless torrent on the north side of the bay, which is sheltered on the east 
side by the rocky headland of Pichilingue. 

A well-kept road, lined by norias or draw-wells, winds between orchards, vine- 
yards, coffee and other plantations from La Paz southwards to the flourishing 
village of Todos Santos, on the Pacific coast. This district is watered by a 
perennial stream, a rare phenomenon in Lower California. La Paz thus possesses 
considerable agricultural resources ; but its chief wealth stiQ consists in its gold 
and silver mines, which were formerly far more productive than at present, 
yielding large supplies of the precious metals under the Jesuit administration. 
The richest lodes were said to have been blocked in 1767, when the missionaries 
were expelled, and if so their position has been faithfully kept a profound secret 
by the Indians ever since that epoch. i. 



But however this be, certain mines, sucIl as those of Sail Antonio, south of 
La Paz, are still very rich in auriferous ores, their annual yield exceeding 
£480,000. At Marques, north-west of La Paz, a quicksilver mine is also worked. 

La Paz is also the centre of important pearl fisheries in the Gulf of California. 
The submerged rocks off Cape Pichilingue are covered with pearl oysters, which 
are fished up by the Yaqui Indians. Whole forests of coral flourished in the 
straits separating the island from the mainland, and here are collected as many as 
nineteen different species of sponges, all, however, of a somewhat coarse texture. 
Although the value of these fisheries, like that of the mines, has gradually fallen 

Fig. 37.— La Paz. 
Scale 1 : 11,000,000. 

113' West of bree wch 



6 to 25 

25 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

> 12 MUes. 

off, the average annual yield is still estimated at about £10,000 on the spot. The 
pearls are bought up by Jewish dealers of New York, who realise considerable 
profits on the transaction. 

Lorefo, which, like the capital, lies on the Gulf some 160 miles farther north, 
was formerly the religious centre of Lower California. Here the Jesuit mis- 
sionary, Salvatierra, established in 1697 the first fortified station, whence expedi- 
tions were made into the interior to bring back captives, who were then manu- 
factured into devout believers. 

At the western foot of the neighbouring Giant Mountain lies the village of 
Comondt), whore a small detachment of Mexican soldiers held out for four months 
against greatly superior American forces. The architecture of this village, like 


that of all the older settlements in the peninsula, differs little from that of the 
Zuni Pueblos in Xew Mexico. It consists of one huge square block enclosed by a 
trench, and without any windows or other apertures on the outer sides. This 
common stone dwelling is disposed ia two storeys, the first of which recedes a few 
yards from the basement, and is reached by a ladder placed agaiast the wall. A 
second ladder leads to the top of the building, whence the inmates get acce:^ by 
trap-doors and more ladders to the rooms and inner court. 

In recent years some commercial activity has been developed in districts which 
were formerly desert or almost uninhabited. Thus the village of JIukge, lying on 
the shores of Santa Inez Bay, over 60 miles north-west of Loreto, has become a 
busy mioing centre since the discovery of auriferous deposits in the valleys of the 
interior. Xear the United States frontier the village of Todos Santos gives its name 
to the neighbouring bay, which ofiers excellent shelter to vessels engaged in the 
coasting trade. The port of San Bartolome, which stands on the opposite side of 
Cape San Eugenio, also attracts some shipping. But the best haven on the whole 
coast is that of Santa ilagdalena, the narrow entrance to which has over 100 feet 
of water in the channel. The spacious inner basin is large enough to accommodate 
whole fleets. 


The State of Sonora, which faces the northern part of the Calif omian peninsula, 
is also one of the least inhabited regions in the republic ; with an area of nearly 
80,000 square miles, its population scarcely exceeds 150,000, or rather less than 
two to the square mile. In 1859, the adventurer, Raousset Boulbon, who had 
placed himself at the head of a band of French miners returning from California, 
was for some time master of Sonora. The arable tracts, where the civilised Indians 
and Mestizoes have formed settlements, are confined to the bottom lands of the 
mountain valleys. Every town and village is encircled by a zone of irrigated land, 
the settlements thus forming so many oases, some of which are connected together 
by narrow strips of verdure. The very name of the country, from the Opata word 
Sonoratzi, a " Place of Springs," originally applied to a cattle ranche, indicates the 
important part played by wells in this arid region. 

Amongst the Sonoran towns Santa Magdakna lies nearest to the United 
States frontier, being situated on a headstream of the Rio de la Asuncion, which 
flows west to the north end of the Gnlf of California. At the time of the 
annual fairs the whole of the surrounding populations, white and red, American 
and Mexican, form temporary camping-grounds in the valley of the river. Far- 
ther south several settlements have been founded in the basin of the Rio Sonora ; 
such are Ari^pe, in the territorv of the Opata Indians, formerly capital of the 
state ; Ures, which succeeded it as centre of the administration, and which Kes 
near the narrow gorges where the river escapes from the Sierra Madre on its 
westerly course to the Gulf ; lastly Hermosillo, formerly Piiic, or the " Confluence," 
the largest town in Sonora and centre of a considerable agricultural industry. The 
district which is irrigated by the last waters qI the Sonora, and its Cucurpe 


affluent, grows sugar and wheat, and its inhabitants claim that the yield of wheat 
is proportionately higher than in any other part of the world. Nevertheless, 
Hermosillo owes its importance not to its agricultural resources, but to the 
mineral deposits discovered in the vicinity. Between 1867 and 1888, the local 
mint coined a total sum of £2,640,000, chiefly in silver pieces. South-west of the 
town rises the famous Cerro de la Campana, or " Bell Mountain," whose porphyry 

Fig. 38.— Gttathas. 

I Scale 1 : 170,000. 


2Jt0 5 





10 to 25 


3 Miles. 

25 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

blocks appear to vibrate with a silvery sound. The YaquI river basin, although 
less thickly peopled than that of the Rio Sonora, contains in its upper valleys 
a few industrious places, such as OjMsura and Sahuaripa, where the Indians are 
engaged especially in the manufacture of cotton fabrics. Oposura, the old capital 
of the Opata nation, has recently taken the name of Modczuma, in memory of the 
former rulers of the land. 

SrSTAT.OA. 97 

The Stale of Sonora possesses on the Colorado river the little port of Lcnlo, 
situated near a cliister of low islands where the Coeopa Indians gather the uniola 
pa/mcri, an alimentary cereal till recently unknown to botanists. Much farther 
south lies the seaport of Giiaijmas, so named from an extinct Indian tribe, 
which was a member of the Pima family. The harbour of Guaymas is one of the 
best in Mexico, and in a better-peopled and more flourishing district it could 
not fail to acquire considerable economic importance. But the whole of the 
seaboard is an arid waste; not a tree is to be seen, not a drop of water 
wells up for miles around the port, which is encircled Kke a flooded crater by bare 
rocks. The very shrubs growing in the town are rooted in soil brought from 
the United States, and are irrigated by a brackish water drawn from deep weUs. 
Nevertheless its excellent anchorage attracts to Guaymas an increasing number 
of vessels, and the place has been recently brought into railway communication 
with the mining and agricultural district of Hermosillo, as well as through Arizona 
with the network of^ United States lines. The Guaymas traders export marine 
salt and a little guano collected on Fafos, or " Duck " Island, an arid rock lying 
north of the large island of Tiburon, or the " Shark." To these products may some 
day be added an anthracite coal of excellent quality, large deposits of which are 
found in the valley of the upper Mayo river. 

Towards the southern extremity of Sonora lies the mining town of Alamos, or 
the " Poplars," which, like Hermosillo, has its own mint, where are annually issued 
from £350,000 to £400,000 worth of coins. Alamos lies just within the basin of 
the Fuerte river, so named from the old Sinaloan fort of El Fuerte or Monfes 
Claros, which guarded the seaboard from the Maj-o and Yaqui Indians, and which 
has now become a flourishing little town. 

The natural port both of Alamos and El Fuerte is Agiabampo, where are shipped 
dyewoods and silver ingots and ores, but only by small craft, there being onlj' ten 
or twelve feet of water on the bar at ebb tide. The old Indian town of Sinaloa, 
which has given its name to the State of Sinaloa, has for its outport the' deep and 
perfectly-sheltered haven of San Carlos, which communicates with the sea through 
the strait of Topolobampo, which is accessible to vessels drawing sixteen or 
eighteen feet. 

CuUacan, present capital of the State of Sinaloa, is one of the old cities of 
Mexico. In 1531, ten years after the conquest, it had already been founded near 
Hue- Colli uacan, that is, " Snake Town," one of the stations on the line of the Nahua 
migrations. At this place the Spaniards organised all their expeditions of disco- 
very and conquest made in the direction of the north. Culiacan, which lies on the 
river of like name in a fertUe district encircled by hiUs, is connected by a railway 
nearly 40 miles long with its port of Altata, on a deep lagoon which is sheltered 
from the surf by a long strip of sand. AU the gold and silver ores of Sinaloa are 
forwarded through this place, and between 1846 and 1888, the Culiacan mint 
issued gold and silver specie to the value of £8,200,000. 

In South Sinaloa Hes the important city of Mazatlan, the most active seaport 
on the west coast of Mexico. Its Indian name means " Deer-land," and one of 




the islets on the neighbouring coast bears the Spanish designation of Venado, 
which has much the same meaning. The researches made in the surrounding 
alluvial districts have brought to light numerous remains of stags' antlers 
associated with arrowheads, axes, and other stone weapons and implements. As 
a seaport Mazatlan cannot compare in natural advantages either with Gruay- 
mas or Acapulco ; the roadstead is exposed to all winds, and in order to avoid 
the nor'westers, especially dangerous in these waters, vessels have to ride at 

Fig. 39. — Mazatlas. 
Scale 1 : 30,000. 

West oF Gr. 




Sands exposed at 
low water. 


16 to 32 


, 1,100 Yards. 

64 Feet and 

anchor in a part of the bay where the ground-swell rolls in from the soiith and 
south-west. But for the export trade with California Mazatlan has the advantage 
of lying exactly under the latitude of Cape St. Lucas ; in other words, it is the first 
Mexican seaport reached by vessels arriving from San Francisco. Hence it has 
become one of the chief ports of call for the regular steampackets, and thus have 
been developed numerous local industries, such as saw-mills, rope- walks, foundries 
and spinning factories, employing a large number of foreign hands. 

Some 30 miles due south-east of Mazatlan is the little town of Chametla, that 



is "Cabins," in Aztec, a place wliich the early Spanisli navigators had endeavoured 
to utilise as a seaport long before their attention was drawn to Mazatlan. From 

Fig. 40.— Cathedbal of Chihttahua. 

Chametla Cortes sailed in 1535 on bis expedition of exploration in the " Vermillion 



On tlie east slope of the Sierra Madre, the chief city in. Xorth Mexico is 
Ckikiuiktuiy which is variously explained to mean the " City of "Water " or the 
" Gtj of Plfiasnre." It stands at a mean altitude of 4,600 feet at the foot of the 
lofl^ Cerro Grande, between two streams whose miited waters form the Conchos 
afflocait of the Bio Braro del Xorte. An aqueduct deriyed from one of these 
streams winds round the flanks of the mountain, separating the region of scrub 
from the irrigated fidds and gardens of the slopes. Chihuahua is a decayed place, 
which in the last centoiy, during die flourishing period of the surrounding mines, 
is said to haTB had a population of 75,000, that is, about sis times more than at 
piesenL The cathedral, erected and long maintained at the cost of the miners, 
is an imposing stnictur e towering abore all the surrounding buildings. Here 
is also a mint, which has become the third most important in Mexico since the 
work of exploring flie metalliferoas lodes has been resumed by American miners. 
The ores which supply the Chihuahua mint come chiefly from the deposits of 
Samta EidaUa, a village lying about 20 mQes to the south-east in a narrow glen 
flanked by inhalnted caves. The argentiferous lodes of Santa Eulalia have 
already famished to the trade of the world a quantity of silver estimated at 
iS8,000,000. The ore is poor, but occurs in great abundance, so that when the 
depc^ts are not wurted by companies the so-called gambmiiios, or private miners, 
find enough metal to earn a livelihood. The very slag, which has been used to 
build hundreds of houses in Chihuahua, or to enclose fields and gardens, is said 
still to contain a percentage of aivear valued at not less than £80,000,000, so that 
it has been proposed to submit it to a further process of reduction. 

Another decayed place is CosiJutiriaehi, which lies some 60 miles to the south- 
west in a vallev of the Siena Madre, and which during the last century had a 
population of over 80,000. BahtpQag, which stands in the upper basin of the Ftio 
del Fuerte within the Chihuahua frontier, has yielded altogether £12,000,000 
during the 250 years that have followed the discovery of its deposits. Scarcely 
le^ productive than the Batopilas mines are those of Guadalupe y Cairo, in the 
Sinaloa river ba^ at the south comer of the state. 

The eastern section of Chihaahua is an almost completely desert region, 
whereas the w^item zone, comprising the slope of the Sierra Madre, is a land 
of minra and forests, of gra^ heights and arable tracts. Here is ample room 
for a large population, and in the xqtland valleys stock-breeding and horticulture 
might be successfully carried on. Nearly all the towns in the state, San 
Pablo Mtogni, Stmia Cruz de Bosales, Santa Smalia, Hidalgo del Parral, follow 
in the direction from north to south parallel with the Sierra Madre, and lie 
at the issue of the various fluvial valleys, whose streams form the Eio Conchos. 
The railway from Denver City to Mexico traverses the state in the same direc- 
tion, and penetrates into Mexican territory through the historic town of Paso 
del Norte, which stands on the right bank of the Eio Bravo at the point where 
fliis river beccmifis ih& common frontier between the two republics. Paso is 


the oldest station in north Mexico, having been founded in 1585 by a Franciscan 
missionary. This " ford," as the vrord means, was formerly much frequented by 
the American convoys which conducted the transport service across the western 
prairies between the Missouri and Mexico, but it gradually lost its importance, 
owing to the competition of the ocean highways. Paso, however, has acquired 
great commercial value since it has become the junction of the four railways 
running to San Francisco, to New York through Denver, to New Orleans and to 
Mexico. In 1889 its exchanges amounted to over £4,000,000. At the confluence 
of the Eio Bravo and Conchos river stands the frontier military station of 
Presidio del Norte, which lies beyond the trade routes, and, despite its strategic 
value, has never risen to the rank of a town. 

In the hiUy region stretching west of El Paso parallel with the Rio Bravo 
prehistoric ruins are very numerous ; here are found the Casas Grandcs, " great 
houses," of Chihuahua, the largest of the Nahua settlements whose remains stiU 
survive in the northern part of Mexican territory. All that now remains of the 
ramparts are some grassy mounds dominated here and there by the fragments of 
crumbling walls. On the highest mound stood the ancient temple, and here has 
been discovered a block of meteoric iron still carefully wrapped in cloth; it 
was probably an object of worship, like the black stone at Mecca. 

In its general outlines the State of Durango, lying to the south of Chihuahua, 
presents the same aspect and forms part of the same geographical region that was 
formerly comprised under the designation of Nueva Vizcaya, or " New Biscay." 
The settlers are to a large extent of Basque origin, fully as energetic and indus- 
trious as their Iberian ancestors. In this part of the republic the purely European 
element is more strongly represented than elsewhere in Mexico. Like Chihuahua, 
Durango comprises on the west the parallel ranges of the Sierra Madre, and on 
the east side vast arid and partly desert plains. Consequently here also the chief 
towns are all situated in the western section along the foot of the mountains. 
Durango, however, occupying a more elevated and less arid part of the plateau, is 
also more fertile and relatively more densely peopled than Chihuahua; the latter 
state has only two, the former from four to six, inhabitants to the square mile. 

Durango, the capital, is named from the Basque town of Durango, having been 
founded in the j'ear 1551 as a strategic post in the territory of the Chichimec 
Indians. Standing on a plateau 6,350 feet high, it commands a superb prospect 
of the most diversified character, the view in one direction sweeping over the 
gloomy ravines and fantastic gulches of the Brena, in another embracing the 
highlands crossed by the highway to Mazatlan, the nearest port on the Pacific. 
Durango is famous in geological records for its meteoric stones, which resemble 
those found in many other parts of the Sierra Madre ; one block, mentioned by 
Humboldt, is said to weigh from sixteen to twenty tons. But the great geological 
curiosity of Durango is its huge rock of native iron, the Cerro de Mercado, so 
named from a captain whom the hope of finding gold had attracted to these regions 
in 1562, and who on his return from the vain quest perished in a conflict with 
the Indians. This mass of iron, which lies over a mile to the north of Durango, 


is 650 feet high, and contains above ground 460,000,000 tons of metal, enough to 
supply the whole of North America for a hundred years. Like Chihuahua, 
Durango prides itself on its sumptuous cathedral, and the city is dominated bv an old 
palace of the Inquisition. The local mint issues gold and silver coins to a yearly 
average value of about £200,000. Durango has often been called the " City of 
Scorpions," and in 1865 a small price having been put upon these arachnidse, as 
many as 55,000 were brought to the municipality in two months. 

All the other towns in the state, such as Mezquital, Guarisamay, San Dlmas, 
Pajmsquiaro, Tainazula, and Inde in the highland region, and Nombre de Bios, San 
Juan del Rio, Cueneame, Nazas, and Mapimi on the lower parts of the plateau, owe 
their origin and prosperity to their silver mines ; but the deposits also contain gold, 
lead, and tin. 

Extensive burial- groimds have been discovered in the caves amid the hills and 
mountains encircling the Bolson de Mapimi wilderness. In these graves the bodies 
are buried in a crouching attitude, and are wrapped in shrouds of agave fibre over 
which are wound coloured scarfs. A single cave contained over a thousand of 
these mummies, nearly all of which were carried off by American explorers, and 
distributed amongst various collections in the United States. 

Noeth-Eastern States — Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas. 

Coahuila, which is conterminous on the east side with Chihuahua, and which, like 
it, is separated by the Rio Bravo from the United States, also resembles it in its 
general relief. Coahuila has also its Sierra Madre, but on the opposite or east side, 
while westwards it expands into vast desert wastes, where the running waters are 
lost in saline meres or lagoons. Th£ slopes of the mountains, which are drained 
by streams descending from gorge to gorge down to the Rio Bravo, are disposed 
in delightful and fertile valleys siutable for cultivating all the plants of the tem- 
perate and sub-tropical zones. Yet this region has still a population of less than 
two to the square mile, and till recently it was exposed to the annual incursions of 
the murderous Apache and Comanche marauders. In 1879, after the complete 
submission of these ferocious Indians, a large number of immigrants were attracted 
to the Sierra Mojada, where auriferous silver ores, apparently very productive, had 
lately been found. But the hopes of the specidators were not realised, and most of 
the immigrants were compelled by the lack of water and provisions to retire from 
these arid uj^lands. The coalfields, also, which skirt the course of the Rio Bravo, 
and from which one of the Mexican riverain stations took the name of Piedras 
Negras, or " Black Stones," are no longer systematically worked. The future wealth 
of Coahiula will be derived not from its mineral stores, but from the produce of 
the soil. Monclova, formerly Coahuila, which stands on a headstream of the 
Salado afiluent of the Rio Bravo, is surrounded by fertile plains, and long staple 
cotton is grown at Santa Buenaventura in the environs. 

Saltillo {El Saltillo or Leona Vicar io), capital of Coahuila, lies at the foot of a 
slaty eminence towards the south-east corner of the state, in an upland valley on 
the slope of the mountains separating Coahuila from Nuevo Leon. The running 


waters descending from the sierra flow northwards through a gorge in the range 
to the San Juan affluent of the Rio Bravo. Saltillo was founded in 1586 by the 
Spaniards, who placed here a garrison of Tlaxcaltecs to defend it against the sur- 
rounding wild tribes, and from that time it continued to be the chief town of the 
province, to which they had given the name of ^ew Estremadura. 

Some six miles farther south, the highway enters an angostum, or " narrow 
pass," between elevated liiUs, where stands the famous farmstead of Bitena Vista. 
From this place are named a large number of localities in the United States 
in memory of the two days' battle fought ia 1846 by the Americans against the 
Mexican defenders of the pass. 

Monterey, capital of the State of Nuevo Leon, is one of the old cities of 
ilexico, its foundation dating from the last years of the sixteenth century. The 
cirque of which it occupies the centre, and which is watered by the little Eio Santa 
Catalina, an affluent of the San Juan, is surrounded by mountains of a foi'bidding 
aspect, with bare rocky flanks and craggy peaks. Southwards is continued the 
chief range of the Sierra Madre ; westwards is developed the Silla or " Saddle " 
ridge, while to the north the system terminates in a bluif which, from its peculiar 
shape, takes the name of the " Mitre." The grey, yellow, and red flanks of the 
surrounding hills rise to a height of from 1,600 to 2,600 feet above the whole town, 
which is encircled by a zone of orchards and orange groves. Monterey lies still 
within the hot zone 1,600 feet above the sea, with long sultrj- summers and mild 
winters free from snow. Its annual fair, held in the month of September, is much 
frequented both by Mexicans and Americans. 

The well-cultivated plains of the irrigated zone in Nuevo Leon yield heavy 
crops of maize, besides wheat, beans, sugar, oranges, and all kinds of fruits. From 
Monterey and the other agricultural centres of the state, such as Cadereyta Jimenez, 
Montemorelos, Linares, and Doctor Arroyo, Tamaulipas and the other surroimding 
regions draw their suppHes of alimentary produce, giving in exchange horses and 
cattle. Thanks to the industry of the peasantry, Nuevo Leon, though not always 
favoured with a sufficient rainfall, has flourished, and the local popidation has 
increased rapidly. Its present density is about eight persons to the square mile, 
that is to say, four times more than that of the other states of North Mexico. 

Monterey forms the bidwark of the republic towards its north-west frontier : 
hence ia the war of 1846 the .Americans began operations by seizing this strate- 
gical position. Two railways converging at Monterey connect it on the one hand 
through Nuevo Laredo on the Rio Bravo with the United States system, on the 
other with the riverain towns of 2Iier, Camarno, Eeinosa, and Matamoros. Thanks 
to this line Monterey has become the Mexican emporium for the lower valley of the 
Rio Bravo. Each of the stations on the right bank confronts another on the left 
through which the American traders introduce their wares, either by legitimate 
traffic or by smuggKng. The two lines converging at Monterey are continued 
through the republic by the grand trunk line of Mexico. 

Of all the towns in the State of Tamaulipas, Matamoros Kes nearest to the 
mouth of the Rio Bravo. Allowing for the winding of the river, it is 48 miles 


from the sea, the coast route having had to be constructed at some distance from 
the Gulf in consequence of the fringing backwaters. Matamoros is of recent origin, 
its site down to the beginning of the present century being still occupied by the 
hamlet of Congregacion del Refugio, that is, the " Refuge " of all the French and 
Meisican corsairs scouring the surrounding waters. In 1825, at the time of its 
official foundation, it received its present name from one of the heroes of the 
Mexican war of independence. Soon after the annexation of Texas to the United 
States, Matamoros acquired great strategic and commercial importance as a frontier 
station near the coast. Its outlet near the mouth of the Rio Bravo has received 
the ambitious name of Bagdad, which, however, is scarcely justified by this humble 
coast village. The bar is too high and too dangerous to admit large vessels. 

Beyond Matamoros, North Tamaulipas is almost uninhabited. Nothing is 
anywhere to be seen except a few scattered hamlets and vast haciendas, where 
thousands of horses and cattle are reared. But in the centre of the state a con- 
siderable population is grouped in towns and villages, which owe their existence 
to the streams descending from the Sierra Madre. This part alone of Tamaulipas, 
that is, "Olive-land," justifies its name. Here is Aguaijo, capital of the state, 
now called Ciiidad Victoria. It lies on a main branch of the Santander, or Marina, 
famous in Mexican history as the old Rio de las Palmas, where the fleets of Graray 
and Camargo landed at the time of the conquest. Here also the ex-emperor 
Iturbide attempted to re-enter the country for the purpose of again seizing the 
reins of government ; but having been arrested he was brought to the village of 
Padilla, at that time the capital, and shot by order of the Tamaulipas congress. 

The city of Tula, which lies near the frontier of the State of San Luis Potosi 
and on the plateau at an altitude of 4,100 feet, is an agricultural centre, whence 
large supplies of maize, beans and pimento are forwarded to the lowlands. 
Although founded hi the middle of the seventeenth century, Tula of Tamaulipas, 
like the Tula of Hidalgo, has replaced an ancient city where have been discovered 
the vestiges of temples and numerous vases, weapons, implements, and other 
objects of the pre-Columbian age. 

The route leading from Tula to Tampico, after crossing a pass 4,800 feet high, 
descends to Santa Barbara, beyond which it rounds the base of the Cerro Bernal, 
a nearly isolated mountain of a perfectly conic shape. Tampico occupies in the 
south of Tamaulipas a geographical position somewhat analogous to that of 
Matamoros ; it stands on a river not far from its mouth, and is surrounded by 
extensive low-lying and unproductive plains. The present city dates from 
the year 1823, when the Spaniards still held the fortress of San Juan d'Ulua, 
which commands Vera Cruz, and which consequently obliged Mexico to seek 
new outlets for its foreign trade. The old town lies within the State of Vera 
Cruz on a thick bank of upheaved shells, and on a shallow creek accessible only 
to craft of light draft. Another Tampico occupies the site of an old Huaxtec 
village amid the dunes east of the Tamiahua lagoon. The new town, though 
better situated on the chief river a short distance below its confluence with the 
Tamesi and six miles from the sea, is not accessible to large vessels; those drawing 



more thau eight or nine feet have to remain outside the bar, where they are 
exposed to the winds and surf. But, higher up, the river is navigable for small 
steamers some 30 miles above its mouth. The trade of Tampico has, at different 
times, tmdergone great vicissitudes ; it was enriched at the expense of Vera Cruz 
whenever this place was blockaded or occupied by foreign powers ; at other times 
it was itself deprived of its export trade in consequence of local revolts or 
political strife. Eecently a large share of the American traffic has been diverted 
from this port by the opening of the continuous railway from the States through 
Paso del Xorte to ilexico ; but it has again recovered its commercial importance 

Tig. 41.— Tamkco. 
Scale 1 : 130,000. 


West oF G'-ee''vv1c^^ 



5 to 10 

10 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 3,300 Yards. 

since the construction of the railway connecting this port through San Luis Potosi 
with the Mexican system. Several lines of steampackets also connect Tampico 
with the other large seaports on the Gulf and in the Caribbean Sea, as well as 
with Xew York, Liverpool, Havre and Hambiu-g. 

Some 30 nules above Tampico, and on the right bank of the Panuco, or 
"Ford," stands the village of Panuco, formerly San Edehan del Puerto, which 
recalls the memory of the Huaxtec kingdom conquered by Cortes, and so cruelly 
laid waste by Xuno de Guzman. The whole district is still but thinly inhabited 
compared to its flourishing condition before the arrival of the Spaniards. Higher 
up on an affluent of the Panuco stands Tamquian, a town of Huaxtec origin, where 


archsDologists have made ntunerous finds, especially of monos, or "monkeys," that 
is, rude himian figures. 

I>aAND States — Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Lris Potosi. 

The central or "inland" states, which rise in terraces towards the southern 
extremity of the Anahuac tableland, are relatively to their size far more densely 
peopled than the northern provinces ; the greater diversity of their relief, more 
abundant supply of water and more exuberant vegetation, enable them to support a 
far larger number of inhabitants. Yet the same arid aspect of the northern 
regions is still maintained without much modification as far as the central parts of 
Zacatecas and San Lms Potosi. Numerous local names, such as Rio Salado, Salitre, 
Laguna Seca, Pozo Hondo, sufficiently attest the arid nature of the soil and the 
brackish quality of its waters, while many villages owe their designation of Mez- 
quite or Mezquital to the thickets of thorny scrub by which they are surrounded. 
The traveller arriving from the United States by the Central Mexican Eailway 
detects no marked change in the scenery until he reaches the town of Fresnillo. 
This place stands, in fact, at an altitude of 7,300 feet, exactly on the divide between 
the waters flowing north to the closed basins of the Bolson de Mapimi, and those 
draining to the Pacific through the Rio Lerpia. 

Zacatecas, capital of the state and of the old Zacatec territory, is one of the 
earliest Spanish settlements in Mexico, having been founded by Nuho de Guzman 
in 1540. The city occupies a group of deep and winding gorges, which are com- 
manded on the north-east by the porphyritic escarpments of La Bufa surmounted 
by a citadel and a church. Zacatecas is hemmed in between other rocky ramparts 
furrowed by crevasses, whence the rain-water descends in cascades to swell a rising 
tributary of the Lerma. Zacatecas owes its prosperity to the silver mines of the 
surroimding porphyritic and schistose mountains interspersed with quartz and 
calcareous beds. Some of the lodes are extremely rich, and those of San Bernab, 
worked for three hundred and fifty years, are not yet exhausted. The most pro- 
ductive are usually found, not in the ravines or on the gentle slopes of the hills, 
but in the steepest places and even on the jagged topmost crests. Thus the reta 
grancle, or " great lode," running north-west and south-east, three miles north of 
Zacatecas, is embedded in a lofty summit 8,650 feet high, on which are perched 
the dwellings and workshops of a mining village. Since 1810 the Zacatecas mint 
has coined a sum of over £68,000,000 in gold and silver, and during the decade 
from 1878 to 1888 the average yearly issue has been £1,150,000, almost exclu- 
sively in silver doUar pieces. The little mining town of Somhrerete, lying about 
125 miles north-west of Zacatecas, on the Durango road, had also Its mint, which, 
however, has been closed since the war of independence. At the time of Hum- 
boldt's \'isit the " black lode " of Somhrerete had j'ielded more metal than anj' other 
vein in the whole of America. A village not far from Somhrerete bears the name 
of Chakhihuites, or " Emeralds," from the greenish stones here found, which 
resemble jade, and which were highly valued by the ancient Aztecs. The Zaca- 
tecas district abounds in natural curiosities. Several small lakes contain carbonate 



of soda, and some of these tarns are like deep natural wells with vertical walls, in 
which the water rises and falls according to the seasons, but never runs dry. Hot 
springs bubble up in several places, especially near the town of OJo Caliente, south- 
east of Zacatecas. 

The capital of Aguascalientes ("Thermal "Waters"), a small state almost entirely 
enclosed in that of Zacatecas, has also its thermal mineral waters, which are sul- 
phurous at a temperature of from 77° to 95° F. 

Fig. 42. — Zacatecas. 
Sc.ile 1 : 110,000. 

i ' % 

Fl r dd 



102^0' West oF Grcpnw rh 


3, 300 Yards. 

Near Villanueva, some 30 miles south-west of Zacatecas, stands a hiU of tufa 
naturally carved into circular cliffs, which give it the appearance of a fortified 
plateau. This eminence is crowned with a group of structures, which must have 
formerly presented an imposing effect, and amongst which archaeologists have 
identified palaces and other dwellings, a citadel, a temple, and a pyramid bearing 
the statue of a god. But the finest remains on this " Cerro de los Edificios " are 
a series of steps, on which the spectators assembled in thousands to contemplate 


the public feasts and sacrifices, but where the solitary traveller now surveys 
nothing but ruins overgrown with scrub. Traces of these buildings are met strewn 
over a space of 70 square miles. According to Clavigero, the Cerro de los Edificios 
is the famous Chicomoztoc of the Nahua legends, that is, the "Seven Caves," 
whence the Aztecs set out on their wanderings to the Anahuac plateau. Another 
ancient city, formerly capital of the confederation of the Nayarit people, lies 60 miles 
south-west of the Qitemada, as the ruins are called, in a lateral valley of the Lerma. 
Here, also, are seen the remains of a fortress and a temple overlooking the plain ; 
Teul, the name of the old city, is the same as Teol, the Aztec title of the sun-god. 

The State of San Luis Potosi resembles that of Zacatecas in its physical 
appearance and the disposition of its two watersheds, one inclining towards the 
northern depressions, the other facing the GuK of Mexico, and comprised within 
the Panuco basin. Like Zacatecas, it is also one of the most productive mining 
regions in the republic. But its agricultm-al and industrial importance is increasing 
from year to year, and these sources already yield a larger income than its argenti- 
ferous ores. Even the city of Caiorce, although lying in the arid northern part 
of the state at an altitude of 8,850 feet, has discovered a considerable source of 
wealth in the preparation of the ixtli fibre. Nearly all the silver coined in the 
San Luis mint, from two to three million dollars a year, comes from the Catorce 
mines. The city, which is said to take its name from the massacre of Catorce 
("fourteen") soldiers, lies in a narrow gorge on a mass of rocky debris formed by 
an old landslip ; its foundation dates from the discovery in 1773 of the rich lodes 
in the neighbouring mountain, the pyramidal double- crested Cerro del Fraile. 

San Luis, distinguished from so many other places of the same name by the 
epithet of Potosi, indicating its great mineral wealth, no longer deserves Its title 
since the famous San Pedro mine and most of the surrounding deposits have 
been abandoned. The city stands on the site of the ancient Tangamanga of the 
Chichimecs, in a depression on the edge of the plateau 6,230 feet above sea-level, 
whence the running waters flow through the Rio Verde to the Panuco. San Luis 
is so completely embowered in a zone of gardens and jjlantations that nothing is 
visible from a distance except the domes of the numerous churches rising above 
the surrounding verdure. Like Monterey, Chihuahua, and some other places, the 
capital of the State of San Luis Potosi was for a time the seat of the Mexican 
Government during the French invasion. It had already lost half of its popula- 
tion, owing to the exhaustion of the mines to which it owed its prosperity in the 
eighteenth century. The ojjening of the railway between Vera Cruz and Mexico 
also diverted much of its trade southwards, causing a further decrease of popula- 
tion. But the new line to Tampico has at last given it a direct outlet seawards, 
and this cannot fail to be followed by a revival of its languishing trade and 
industries. The district yields an abundance of cereals, fruits, vegetables, textile 
fibres, and fermented drinks extracted from the maguey or other plants of the 
same family. The citizens, noted for their enterprise and energetic habits, look 
forward to the time when San Luis will take the second rank, if it docs not rival 
Mexico itself in commercial importance. 



All the other more populous and flourishing towns of the state, such as Rio 
Verde, Santa Maria del Rio, Ciudad del Mais, are situated on the south-eastern 
slopes of the plateau facing towards Tampico. The mining town of Guadakazur, 
which lies in a limestone dista-ict to the north-east of San Luis, is a decaved place, 
while Salinas, to the north-west, as indicated by its name, abounds in salt-mines 
and saline lagoons, the most actiTely worked in the rcpublci. 

GrANAJXTATO, J.VLISCO A^•D Tepic, Colima, Michoacax. 

The political divisions of the diSerent states are far from coinciding with their 
natm-al Kmits. This is largely due to the fact that the present frontiers were 
fixed by the Spanish administration according to the disti'ibution of the tribes 

Fig. 43. — Sax Lrrs Potosi— Goveejckest Paiace. 

and languages, religious or executive considerations, and especially the interests 
of the great European or Creole landed proprietors. 

Kevertheless a certain accidental coincidence may occur between the political 
boundaries and physical conditions of the various provinces. Thus the four States 
of Guanajuato, of Jalisco with the Tepic territory, of Colima and ITichoacan, 
constitute a sufficiently distinct natural region, comprising the basins of the Eio 
Lerma and other streams, which flow from the western slope of the Anahuac 
plateau down to the Pacific. These regions, where the hot, temperate and cold 
climates are disposed in vertical order one above the other, possess a great 
abundance of different products. But they do not yet enjoy the same facilities 
of communication as the eastern slope of the Mexican tableland, the seaports on 
the Pacific side not being yet connected with the general railway system. The 


population, however, which has considerably increased during the last few decades, 
is relatively dense, averaging nearly forty to the square mile. 

Of these states Guanajuato, which lies nearest to the capital, is best provided 
with communications and has been longest settled by the whites ; hence it is also 
the richest and the most thickly peopled in proportion to its extent. Guanajuato, 
its capital, stands at an altitude of 6,700 feet in a deep and narrow gorge flanked 
by bare jagged cliffs, and accessible only by a single winding path. Here the 
houses with their flat roofs rise one above another like a heap of dice piled up 
in disorder. The mining villages are grouped here and there along the escarp- 
ments, and the workshops are scattered over the terraces and in the depressions. 
One of these industrial centres is the famous Vaknciana, where the reta madre, 
or main lode of Guanajuato, nowhere less than 30 and ia some places over 160 
feet thick, constitutes an enormous mass of argentiferous ores, which, between the 
years 1768 and 1810, gave an annual yield of over £1,520,000. This is the 
deepest mine in Mexico, having been worked down to 2,000 feet below the surface. 
But since the war of independence it has been flooded, and more than one English 
company has in vain attempted to resume operations, yet the lode is still supposed 
to contain from £280,000,000 to £320,000,000 of silver. 

La Luz, a to-mi h'ing a short distance to the north-west in the group of the 
Gigante or "Giant" Mountains, is also surroimded bj' mineral deposits. At 
present the Guanajuato mint yearly issues specie to the value of £950,000, of 
which £160,000 in gold, the rest silver, nearly all derived from the surrounding 
mines. These Guanajuato mines have become famous in physiography for the 
subterranean rumblings often heard in them. In 1784 they were so violent that 
the terrified inhabitants took to flight, although the underground thunders were 
accompanied by no earthquakes. One of the neighbouring hills takes the name 
of the Bramador, or "Roarer." Guanajuato is one of the historic cities of the 
war of independence. Here the insurgents, aided by about 20,000 Indians and 
armed only mth knives and sticks, gained their first victory ; the plunder was 
enormous, about £1,000,000 having been taken in the citadel alone. The little 
town of Dolores, whose parish priest was Hidalgo, leader of the insurrection, lies 
some 25 miles north-east of Guanajuato ; since the revolution it has taken the 
name of Dolores Hidalgo. 

Guanajuato is rivalled in population by Loon de los Aldamas, which, like the 
capital, lies on an upper affluent of the Pao Lerma, but in a far more accessible 
position and under a more agreeable climate. The citj', which is dominated on 
the north bj' the group of the Giant Mountains, spreads over a fertile and well- 
cultivated plain at the north-west extremity of the alluvial zone, which, under the 
name of Bajio, sweeps in crescent form right across the wliole State of Guanajuato. 
Leon, which despite its large size has never ranked as a capital, possesses nume- 
rous factories, and here are specially produced the rich saddles and trappings so 
much affected by the Mexican cavaliers. The railway which traverses the Bajio 
zone, and one branch of which runs to Guanajuato, passes close to nearly all the 
important towns of the state. Such are Silao, dominated by the Sierra de Cubilete, 



and rich in silver-mines and thermal springs ; Ii-apuato ; Salamanca with its cotton 
mills; Celaija, a watering- place and a manufacturing centre, producing cloth, 
carpets, soaps and leather. San Miguel Allende, or simply Allende, another indus- 
trial town, dating from the first years of the conquest, lies on a plain to the 
east of Guanajuato, while Salvaticrra and Vallc Santiago occupy depressions 
in the lake-studded plateau which stretches southwards in the direction of 

The Eio Lerma, which at Salamanca enters the formerly lacustrine basin of the 
Bajio, sweeps southwards round the San Gregorio heights, and then traverses a 
second very broad valley before losing itself in Lake Chapala. La Piedad and 
La Barca, both surrounded by numerous hamlets, have sprung up on the banks of 
the river, and in the interior towards the south stands the town of Ixtlan, with its 
hundreds of mud volcanoes dotted over the plain. Westwards along the banks 
of the great lake there are no large towns. Chapala itself, which lies on the 
north side, is an obscure place, remote from all the highways of communication. 

East of this town is seen the island of Mexcal, which is identified with the 
mythical Azflan, whence the Nahuas trace their origin. In 1812 the Indians 
of the surrounding shores took refuge in this island under one of their priests, 
and here defended themselves for five years against all the attacks of the 

Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco, lies some twelve miles from the left bank of 
the Lerma, at an altitude of 5,120 feet, on a plateau watered only by a few inlets. 
Founded in 1542, it has always been one of the chief cities of Mexico, thanks to 
its geographical position at the converging-point of the highways ascending from 
the Pacific seaports towards the plateau. Its population has increased from 20,000 
at the beginning of the century to over 100,000 ; it has thus greatly outstripped 
the Spanish city from which it has been named. As a mining centre Guadalajara 
cannot be compared with Zacatecas or Guanajuato ; nevertheless its mineral wealth 
is considerable, for the local mint annually coins silver pieces to the value of from 
£240,000 to £280,000. But Guadalajara takes the second place amongst Mexican 
cities as an agricultural and manufacturing centre, being noted especially for its 
rehozos and other textiles, its paper, starch, cigars, metal and glass wares, and 
sweetmeats of all sorts. The springs which suppKed the city having proved 
insufficient for the rapidly increasing population, it has been proposed to supply 
it with water by a canal derived from the Rio Lerma above the Juanacatlan Falls ; 
this aqueduct might also be so constructed as to furnish motive power for the 
workshops of the city. 

The pleasure resorts of the wealthy classes of Guadalajara are for the most 
part scattered over the San Pedro hills, some miles from the city. Towards the 
east the Rio Lerma, here 540 feet wide, is crossed by the bridge of Totolotlan, a 
work dating from the Spanish period. Farther on the route is carried over a 
northern affluent of the Lerma by the famous bridge of Calderon, where the insur- 
gents met their first reverse in a battle which was long supposed to be decisive. In 
the neighbourhood, between the towns of Zapotlanejo and Tepatitlan, is still seen the 



ruined pyramid of a temple known as the " Cerrito de Montezuma." On an 
affluent of the Lerma, north-east of Guadalajara, stands the town of Lcir/os, in an 
angle of the state midway between Aguascalientes and Guanajuato. Thanks to 
its geographical position Lagos promises to become the common emporium of 
several of the upland states ; its markets are already much frequented, though to 
a fiir less extent than the annual fairs of the neighbouring San Juan de los Lagos, 
which lies at a much lower elevation in a depression of the valley. Bolanos. a 
smaller place than Lagos but formerly more important as a mining centre, also 
lies on a northern affluent of the Lerma, the Rio Jerez, but in a region of difficult 
access at the outlet of a formidable gorge dominated by jagged rocky walls. South 

Fig. 44.— San Bias. 
Scale 1 : 700,000. 


West 6? Greenwich 




5 to 12 


12 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

12 MUea. 

of Bolanos and beyond the Lerma, the town of Tequila stands at the foot of a high 
precipitous clilf ; this place is famous for its maguey brandy, commonly known as 

The town of Topic, capital of a separate territory, lies like Guadalajara some 
distance to the south of the Rio Lerma, the lower course of which it may be said 
to command. Its prosperity is due to the salubrity of its position, 3,000 feet 
above sea-level, in the midst of gardens and orchards, and on the edge of a 
volcanic plateau within sight of the Pacific Ocean. It thus serves as a health 
resort for the ports of this malarious seaboard, on M^hich are deposited the alluvia 
of the Rio Lerma. When the conqueror, Nuuo de Guzman, took possession of this 

JAUSCO. 118 

region, he selected another site some twelve miles farther south, but also on the 
edge of the plateau, and at the same distance from the coast. Here was foimded 
the town of Compostela, which was long the strategic centre of the whole of west 
Mexico, but which is now a decayed village. The old Indian city of Jalisco, which 
has given its name to the state whose capital is Guadalajara, lies four or five miles 
to the south of Tepic on the slopes of the igneous Cerro San Juan. 

At the issue of the mountain gorges, where the Eio Lerma, called also Rio 
Grande de Santiago, debouches on the low-h-ing coastlands, stands Santiago, now 
a mere village of no maritime importance ; large vessels can no longer force the 
dangerous bar to ascend the course of the river to any inland port. Hence San Bias, 
the present port of the Lerma basin, lies to the south of the allu^dal plain, not 
far from the escarpments of the Sierra de Tepic. Foi-merly one of the lateral branches 
of the Lerma discharged into the San Bias harbour, but it was obstructed during 
the war of independence, and since then it has remained closed. The port is well 
sheltered from the winds ; but the approach is narrow, and has a depth of less than 
thirteen feet at low water. But such as it is, San Bias is the most frequented 
seaport on the west coast of Mexico between Mazatlan and Acapulco. The old 
town stood above the harbour on a bluff of black basalt, accessible only from the land 
side. Since its destruction during the ci^il wars, it has remained a mere ruin 
almost entirely overgrown with vegetation. The present San Bias, which lies on 
the coast, consists of a group of houses and cottages shaded by cocoanut groves 
and inhabited chiefly by people of colour. 

The Eio Ameca, which discharges into Banderas Bay south of San Bias, has 
given its name to the chief town in its basin. Ameca and the neighbouring Cocula, 
lying in an extremely fertile district studded with lakes and dried-up lacustrine 
depressions, will one day present a shorter route from the coast to Lake Chapala 
than the loundabout road rxinning north by Tepic and Guadalajara. But Ban- 
deras Bay is everywhere exposed to the surf, and the town of Mascota, occupj-- 
ing a sheltered position in a glen at the foot of the Bufa de San Sebastian cliffs, 
has no haven on this inhospitable seaboard. The nearest anchorage is that of the 
little port of Chamela, over 60 miles farther south. 

South of Lake Chapala, the two industrial and pictui-esque towns of Sai/iila 
(4,420 feet) and Zapotlan (4,3'20 feet), the latter called also Ciudad de Guzman, 
form convenient stations on the route leading fi-om Guadalajara to CoUma. This 
provincial capital, formerly Santiago de los Cabal! eros, was foanded by Cortes in 
the first years of the conquest, at an alti^ade of 1,485 feet, on the advanced spurs 
of the hills which form the pedestal supporting the two volcanoes of " Fire " and 
"Snow." A river, whose nimierous feeders descend from the deep gorges scoring 
the flanks of the moimtains, passes to the west of Colima, irrigating its gardens, 
coffee, sugar, and cotton plantations. So favourable are the conditions of soil and 
climate that the plains of Colima might become one of the most productive regions 
in the world under a less primitive system of husbandry. 

The future railway, by which these fertile plains are to be connected with the 
general Mexican system, has already made a beginning with a coastline which 

VOL. x^^I. I 



runs from Jtlanzanillo, tlie port of Colima, along a strip of sand on the south side 
of the Cuyutlan lagoon. This shallow basin is entirely dry during the hot season, 
and it is now proposed to place it in constant communication with the sea by 
cutting a canal through the narrow intervening neck of land. The port of 
ManzaniUo, which is developed in the rocky coast immediately to the west of this 
sandy isthmus, is spacious, deep, and well sheltered from aU winds except those 
blowing from the west and south-west. These prevail especially during the rainy 
season, from May to October, that is to say, the healthy period of the j'ear ; but 
during the dry season the climate of ManzaniUo is much dreaded. Some sixty 
miles south-east of this plain lies the little port of Maniata, which, while quite as 

Fig. 45. — Mauzanillo. 
S(ale;i : 1,110,000. 


West oF Greenwich 



25 to 60 


50 to 100 

100 to 500 

18 Mfles. 

unhealthy, is even more exposed than ManzaniUo. The coast salines between 
these two ports occupy during the season from 5,000 to 6,000 native hands. 

The State of Michoacan is one of those regions that have long resisted assimila- 
tion with the rest of Mexico. The Tarascan nation had never been subdued by the 
Aztecs, and their chief bore the title of " Booted " in a pre-eminent sense, because, of 
aU native princes, he alone had the right of wearing his boots in the presence of 
Montezuma. Proud of their ancient Uberties, the Tarascans had at first welcomed 
the Spaniards as mere aUies, and three hundred years later, during the war of 
independence, no other Indian warriors displayed greater valour and steadfastness 
against the disciplined troops of Europe. It was in the town of Apacinffan, in one 
of the low-lying fluvial valleys converging ou the Eio Mexcala, that was held the 





first deliberative assembly of the revolted populations. The national council was 
later transferred to Zitacuaro, on the uplands between Morelia and Tolnca. 

The capital of the state also bears a name which recalls the great deeds of the 
struggle against Sj^ain. Under the old regime it took the designation of Valladolid 
from the famous Castilian city ; but it is now better known as MorcUa, from 
Morelos, one of the heroes and martyrs of the insurrection. Situated at an altitude 
of 6,200 feet, on the plateau in the basin of Lake Cuitzeo, Morelia lies between 
two streams in a fertile valley commanded on the west by the superb Mount 
Quinceo, 8,950 feet high. The citj% which stood aloof from the great highways 
of communication, is, nevertheless, one of the best built and cleanest in Mexico ; 
it is adorned with beautifid public grounds, and a fine cathedral with two towers 
in simple and correct taste. 

The branch line connecting Morelia with the Mexican railway system is one 
of the most picturesque on the plateau ; it skirts the shores of Lake Cuitzeo, which 
is everywhere encircled by hills, grassy slopes, and woodlands. West of this 
magnificent lacustrine basin, the region between the mountains and the Rio Lerma 
is dotted over with other lakes, one of which mirrors in its clear waters the houses 
of Furuandiro. South-west of Morelia the railway is continued in the direction of 
Patzcuaro, which was the capital of the country from the time of the conquest to 
the year 1541, when the Spaniards founded Valladolid. Patzcuaro had itself 
succeeded in 1520 to Tzintzontzan or Huitzizila, the "Humming-bird Town," resi- 
dence of the native ruler, which was said to have a poiDulation of 40,000. Bishop 
Vasco de Quiroga removed the Christians from the old to the new town, which 
stood on a neighbouring terrace, whence a view was commanded of Lake Patzcuaro 
about three miles ofE. Tzintzontzan is now a mere village, whereas Patzcuaro has 
become a populous city. The mounds scattered about the district are said to 
conceal the ruins of temples and palaces. Lake Patzcuaro still stands at an alti- 
tude of 7,260 feet ; but from this point the traveller soon reaches the edge of the 
plateau, whence the route descends rapidly to the coast through the towns of 
Tacambaro, Ario, Uruapan, and some other places situated in the lateral valleys 
of the Rio Mexcala. Near Ario, at an elevation of over 6,700 feet, and within 
sight of the summit of the Tancitaro volcano, stands the -village of Caninzio, till 
recently inhabited by a group of French settlers, who acclimatised in the district 
nimierous species of fruit trees, flowering, and other ornamental plants. The wine 
made in the colony of Francia, or " Little France," was famous throughout 
Mexico. But the invasion of the country by the French troops in 1864 excited the 
natives against the foreign settlers, who were obliged to disi^erse. The so-called 
ayacates, or sepulchral mounds, erected by the ancient Tarascans are scattered in 
hundreds round about Ario. 


The various states occupying the Anahuac plateau properly so called, and 
draining through fissures in the moimtains to both oceans, but mainly to the Gulf 
of Mexico, constitute collectively the most productive, the richest and most 



densely-peopled region in tlie republic. Here the population is in the proportion 
of about C4 to the square mile, so that the centre of gravity of the Mexican 
nation has not been shifted since the epoch of Toltec civilisation, that is to say, 
for a period of at least a thousand years. This centre, however, could scarcely be 
removed to any other region, such as Durango and Zacatecas, possessing greater 
mineral resources, or Michoacan and Oaxaca, enjoying the advantage of a more 
exuberant vegetation ; for the Anahuac tableland has the still greater advantage 
of being the natural converging-point of all the routes coming from the north 
between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, while at the same time com- 
manding like a citadel both slopes of the country. 

The State of Queretaro, where rise the first headstreams of the Panuco, is of 
relatively small extent. Its northern section, also, where are situated the towns 
of JaljKtn, Tollman, and Cadereijta, is but sparsely peopled, most of the inhabitants 
being concentrated in the southern division, where begin on the one hand the 
great plain watered by the Bajio tributary of the Rio Lerma, and on the other the 
headwaters of the Rio San Juan, a main branch of the Panuco. In this valley Lies 
the town of San Juan del Bio, a delightful " city of gardens." Queretaro, which 
gives its name to the state, is situated at an altitude of 7,000 feet, close to the 
Avaterparting between the two slopes. Its foundation is attributed by historians 
to the Otomi people ; but although it is said to date from the middle of the 
fifteenth century, all its buildings are of Spanish origin. Of these the most 
remai'kable is an aqueduct of seventy-four arches, rising about 80 feet above the 
ravine. A reservoir, recently constructed above the city, contains a volume of 
over 35,000,000 cubic feet of water. Queretaro is one of the industrial towns 
of Mexico, being noted especiallj^ for its soaps, cigars, and cotton yarns ; the 
spinning-mills occupy thousands of native artisans. About half a mile west 
of the city is situated the Cerro de las Campanas, on the slope of which is the 
little monument of three stones, indicating the spot where the ill-fated emperor 
Maximilian and his two generals, Miramon and Mejia, were shot in 1867. 

The state bearing the name of Hidalgo, in memory of the priest who first 
siunmoned the Mexicans to rise against Spain, is of recent formation. Here the 
towns, such as Zimapan, Jacala, Mextitlan, and Huejutla, the ancient city of the 
Huaxtec nation, all stand at considerable distances one from the other. Thus 
the population is centred chiefly in the extensive fertile plains of the south, which 
are enclosed by a highly productive hilly mineral region. Here lies, not far from 
Actopan and the fantastic "Organ" Mountains, the capital, Paehuea, an ancient 
city, now connected by a branch line with the Mexican railway system ; in the 
neighbourhood are the gold and silver mines, which were already worked by the 
natives in pre-Columbian times. The mining district of Regla, between Pachuca 
and Atotonilco, has become famous under the name of Real del Monte, recently 
changed to Mineral del Monte. Vast quantities of silver were extracted from these 
deposits before the mines were ruined by inundations and the biu'uing of the 
surrounding forests. Since the war of independence, the works have been 
reopened bj' Cornish master-miners, who now employ thousands of native hands. 






HID.-VLGO. 117 

These enterprising English speculators have introduced some rery powerful 
machinery, which enables them to supply the Mexican mint with the largest part 
of the metal it now coins. Pachuca lies about midway between the two ancient and 
powerful cities of the Toltec people, Tttlancicjo and Tula. The former, that is, 
" Little Tula," which is said to be the oldest, stands at the foot of a volcano east 
of the present capital, near the eastern verge of the plateau. Before the conquest 
the natives worked into all kinds of cutting instruments the obsidian collected on 
the neighbouring Cerro de las Navajas, or "Mountain of - Knives." These 
quarries and workshops seem to have sufficed for the wants of the whole of the 
Anahuac plateau from prehistoric times down to the arrival of the Spaniards. 
Tula, the ancient ToUan, is now a mere village, situated in the charming district 
traversed by the railway running from Mexico to Queretaro. Here, also, are found 
the remains of animals, arrowheads, and other implements in great abundance ; but 
a more interesting discovery is that of the ancient buildings brought to light by 
M. Chamay, on the summits of mounds or hillocks commanding an extensive 
view of the surrounding plains. The ruins are supposed to represent all that now 
remains of several ancient temples, and of a palace. It is noteworthy that the 
architects of Tula employed the most diverse materials, wood, stones, pebbles, 
cement, mortar, and even the true baked brick, but not the adohes, or sun-dried 
bricks, which were so extensively used by the Aztecs. 

The State of Mexico has been shorn of its former proportions, and in a sense 
dismembered, by the detachment of Hidalgo in the north, and Morelos in the 
south. Moreover, the " Federal District " which encircles the capital forms a 
distinct enclave within the state, being administered, like the district of Columbia, 
in the United States, directly by Congress. But although thus reduced to less 
than half its original size, it still constitutes an extensive territory, which might 
even admit of further subdivision by separating the districts lying south of the 
snowy range on the slope which drains through the Rio Mexcala to the Pacific. 
Nearly all the moimtainous parts are uninhabited, except in the mining regions, 
such as the environs of I.rtlahuaca. Nevertheless, the population is relatively 
very dense, especiallj- towards the eastern extremity of the state, which, so to say, 
forms the suburbs of the federal capital. Toluca, the state capital, is not an 
important place, its development having been retarded by its great elevation of 
8,600 feet, rigorous climate, and lack of communications. Lerma, some eight 
miles farther east, on a lake traversed by the headstream of the Eio Lerma, 
occupies a position analogous to that of Toluca. Roimd the corn-growing 
"valley" rises an amphitheatre of hills, dominated southwards by the Nevado 
de Toluca volcano, whose long slopes are flecked or draped in snow towards the 
summit. The pass running east of this mountain is guarded by the town of 
Tenango, near which is a romantic waterfall. On the opposite slope the chief 
places are Tenancingo, or " Little Tenango," Tejupiko, and Temascaltepec. 

Mexico, capital of the republic, still bears its Aztec name, which has been 
variously interpreted by etymologists, but which is usually derived from one of 
the appellations of the war-god Mexitli. Nevertheless, the city was more com- 



monly knovm, even during the first years of the Spanish conquest, by the name 
of Tenochtitlan, or " Nopal Stone ; " in fact, its arms, now adopted by the republic, 
represent a stone rising above a lake, and bearing a nopal tree, on which an 
eagle has alighted. The European city has sprung up precisely on the site of 
Montezuma's capital. During the siege of Mexico, Cortes systematically destroyed 
every block of buildings, in order to deprive the advancing enemy of all cover. 
Eut when he rebuilt the city in 1522, he followed exactly the original plan, street 
for street, quarter for quarter, every Spanish barrio thus succeeding every Mexican 
calimlU. The centre of the ancient city in this way became the great plaza, or 
square, and the cathedral rose on the site of the chief temple dedicated to the god 

Kg. 46. — Ancient Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 400,00(1. 

. a Milea. 

of war. The city of Tlateloko, which had originally formed a sort of trading 
quarter distinct from the military city of Tenochtitlan, was also absorbed in the 
New Mexico. It stood on the ground at present occupied by the northern quarter. 
But although standing on the site of the ancient Aztec capital, the aspect of the 
modern Mexico has been so completely changed that its former inhabitants could 
no longer recognise it. Tenochtitlan was essentially a lacustrine city, entirely 
surrounded by water, and connected with the mainland by causeways and embank- 
ments. But the waters have now subsided sufficiently to leave the new capital 
high and Avj, and even surroimded by a grassy zone. The causeways formerly 
traversing the lake have become highways, and the canals in the interior have 
been filled up and transformed to avenues. Seen fi'om a distance, the federal 
capital presents an imposing ai^pearauce. This white city, overtopped by domes 





E\^^.iA^o ^y^-i^" J^'"'&> \^ 






f/V--- — / ■ ^T* Zaltocaa/ Tetania 


' '2i^ 




l&^fda viejo 

t-« i*" 



oona n tLt 











.:^^^y L. de TexcoccT- 

Araoon-— ^i^ 

Hii£xotla I 

"S.Baitolo ^ 




J IV 1 J D9'\ — r ^vK / — N^x "^ 

, ^de la's/ ^ S. Ano el 

S.AMonip/ =^ Td^Ui 

.■..,,,^ /Next,alpan 


/ , 

^ di Jpisco ■' 




IS. Lucas 

^ Xalpa 
'' AclopaXL"- 



»\ c->l -Jl (-rp<.-ii\' 

Scale, l.ttSO.OOO 

-OKDON J.S.VIRTUE & CV wkiteu. 


and pinnacles, spreading widely over tte vast plain, and bounded in the hazy 

distance by an amphitheatre of majestic monntains, harmonises completely with 


the natural enTironment. The traveller, viewing it from some commanding site, 
might weU be tempted to exaggerate the part played in history by a city occupying 
such an imposing position. " "We stood rapt in amazement," exclaimed Bernal 
Diaz. " "We declared that the city resembled those enchanted abodes described in 
the book of Amadis, and some of our men asked whether the vision was not a 

Mexico is laid out with great regularity, the streets, mostly too narrow, being 
disposed at right angles, Uke those of Chicago and Philadelphia ; but this monoto- 
nous arrangement is somewhat broken by the squares and gardens occurring at 
intervals. The houses, with their terraced roofs and inner courts Uke those of 
eastern cities, are solidly built with a yellowish sandstone, or a red lava called 
tezontle, and are usually of only one storey, the better to resist the slight but some- 
what frequent earthquakes. In the centre of the city is situated the great square 
(plaza), where, are celebrated all public solemnities, and where converge the currents 
of business and pleasure, alternating with the hours of the daJ^ On one side of the 
square stands the cathedral, which replaces the church erected by Cortes on the 
spot where stood the teocaUi, or temple of the war-god, ever reeking with the blood 
of human victims. The very pillars of the new edifice rested on the great idols, in 
order that they might be for ever crushed by the indestructible column of the holy 
Christian religion. The present church, which took nearly a centiiry to build, is 
a sumptuous monument of imposing appearance, and to it is attached the Sagrario, 
another church with a fa9ade as luxuriously carved and sculptured as a Hindoo 
palace. A second side of the plaza is occupied by the National Palace, which is 
said to have been erected on the site of Montezuma's palace. It is a vast building, 
with a frontage considerably over 220 yards long, and containing the senate, the 
Government offices, the ministries, besides the post office, museum, and library. 
The other two sides of the square are skirted chiefly by houses with porfa/es, or 
arcades, where there is a constant movement of loungers, pedestrians, and itine- 
rant dealers. In the middle of the square is the fine promenade of the Zocalo, or 
" Socle," shaded with the eucalyptus, and adorned with flower beds, fountains, 
and statues. 

In the Mexican museum are preserved valuable natural history collections, 
amongst which are those fossils which the conquerors supposed to be the "bones 
of giants," but which are now known to be the remains of large animals belonging 
to the quaternary fauna. Still more interesting is the archaeological collection, 
comprising such antiquities as escaped the iconoclastic fury of the first conquerors 
and the research of foreign collectors. Here is the precious " Mexican Calendar," 
on which is sculptured the division of time according to the ingenious Aztec 
system. It is a huge block weighing 21 tons, which must have been brought 
from a groat distance, for no rocks of the same geological formation occur in the 
neighbouring mountains. The " Stone of Tizoc " (p. 71), which represents the pro- 
cession of people vanquished by that hero, and which was long supposed to be the 
" stone of sacrifice " belonging to the great temple, is another treasure preserved 
in this museum, where may also be seen the hideous statue of Huitzilopochtli, 

i ,. 


1 ^-^U 

*-r -J ■-■ I 'A' ^V. mj 






"god of war," hieroglypliic paintings, Montezuma's shield, and the effigies of 
several deities. Every year adds to the contents of the National Museum, and 
systematic explorations made in the groimd, and especially in the lacustrine 
depressions, cannot fail to reveal numerous other treasures. Mexico already 
possesses some large scholastic establishments, notably a school of medicine now 
installed in the old palace of the Inquisition, and a preparatory school occupying the 
old convent of the Jesuits. Aztec literature is studied in a college founded for 
the Indians ; several learned and literary societies publish useful memoirs ; the 
chief library has over 150,000 volumes; the picture-gallery is one of the richest 
in the Xew World. 

The population of Mexico has increased fivefold since the beginning of the 
century ; nevertheless it has already been outstripped by many cities of more 
recent origin. A himdred years ago it was the largest place in the New "World ; 
now it is exceeded not only by Xew York and several other cities in the United 
States, but also by some of its rivals in Latin America. Xevertheless, Mexico, 
situated on the " bridge of the world " between the two oceans, is assuredly one 
of the vital points of the planet, one of those points whose historic importance 
cannot fail to advance with the general progress of the world. It has doubtless 
lost the trade between the Philippines and Spain which it had formerlv enjoyed 
through colonial monopolies ; but on the other hand the internal traffic has greatly 
developed. Bernal Diaz already remarked that " no European city possessed a 
market comparable to that of the Anahuac capital ; at least none possess such a 
fruit market, where are seen in abundance the products of every zone — cherries and 
pears side by side with pineapples and bananas." One of the most curious sights 
in Mexico is that presented every morning on the Tiga Canal by the flotillas of 
boats ladened with flowers, fruits and vegetables. The wholesale import trade is 
almost entirely in the hands of English, American, German, French and other 
foreign traders. These industrious strangers have nearly all acquired a position of 
comfort, while the native population of mendicants, feperos, pelados or pordioseros, 
still swaiTns in the suburbs. 

Despite the pure air descending fi-om its snowy mountains, Mexico is not a 
healthy place. The mortality, which in certain years has exceeded the births 
four times, averages from 32 to 33 per thousand, which is much higher than 
that of London, Paris, and most other cities of West Europe. This high death- 
rate is due mainly to the impurity of the soil and waters. Mexico stands only a 
few inches above the level of Lake Texcoco, with a subsoil of impermeable argil- 
laceous deposits : hence the least excavation on the surface of the ground becomes 
at once flooded with a brackish water saturated with organic substances. The 
gradual upheaval of the bed of Lake Texcoco threatens destruction to the city, which 
has already been more than once laid under water. After every downpour, the 
streets are filled with slush, and when the rains last long enough the whole place 
becomes transformed to a swamp or even to a veritable quagmire. The roadways 
are also badly kept, while the drains, flooded with an almost stagnant water, con- 
tribute much to the putrefaction of the soil. "The city is threatened with asphyxia," 



is an expression occurring in a report on the sanitary state of the place. But if 
foul water abounds in Mexico, the pure water brought from a distance by 
aqueducts is far from sufficient for the wants of the people ; in 1882 it was scarcely 
880,000 cubic feet per day, or less than twentj' gallons per head of the population. 
The drainage of the subsoil itself presents grave difficulties ; by carrying off the 
overflow, which gives consistency to the marshj' ground, the b\xildings are apt to 
lose their centre of gravity and to topple over at the least vibration of the surface. 
The gradual drying up and shrinking of the land has already caused rents and 
fissures in most of the large structures, while others have sunk several feet in the 

Fig. 48. — 3IEX1C0 AND IT3 ENnEOXMESTS. 
Scale 1 : 120,000. 


Wast oF Gree 

. 3,300 Tarda. 

oTOund. It is now regretted that, in order to secure his triumph, Cortes decided 
to rebuild the city exactly on the site of the old capital, and lay the foimdations of 
his churches on the temples of the gods, instead of selecting a new position on the 
more elevated land which stretches westwards to the neighbouring mountains. 
The wealthy quarters, however, are already stretching out in this direction. Certain 
villages, such as Casablanca and Tacuhaya, where the national observatory has been 
established, are gradually expanding and becoming connected with the capital by 
avenues lined with buildings. Mexico is thus steadily moving westwards towards 
the less tainted rising groimds. The city is adorned with some fine promenades, 
such as the Paseo and the Alameda, where a fountain Indicates the site of the 
ancient Quemadero, that is, the " burning-place," of the Inquisition. Victims of 






this horrible institution -were especially the " heretical " sailors captured by the 
Spanish cruisers. 

Mexico is rapidly growing along both sides of the road leading to Tacuba, 
■which replaces the old highway by which the Spaniards made their disastrous 
retreat during the Koche Triste or "Sorrowful 2s^ight." Xear the village of 
Popotla is still seen the old cypress under which Cortes sat vainly awaiting the 
arrival of over 400 of his men, whose bodies lay heaped up in the gory mud at 
the breaches of the causeway. Round about this historic tree stretch vast 
marshy gardens, and farther on are seen the houses of Tacuba. Under the name 
of Thicopam this place was formerly one of the three cities of the Xahua confede- 
ration. Farther north, on the road leading to the desagiie of Huehuetoca, stands 
CwaM^jY/aw, the " Eagle-town," which gave rise to the Mexican saying, "Beyond 
Mexico naught but Cuautitlan," meaning that except Mexico there was nothing 
in the world worth seeing. 

A superb avenue shaded with eucalyptus-trees leads from the capital to the 
porphyritic eminence of Chapultepec, or " Mountain of the Cicada." This avenue 
is lined with statues, one of which commemorates the last Aztec king, Guatimozin, 
" heroic in the defence of his country and sublime in his martyrdom," burnt alive 
by the infamous conquistadores. On the rock of Chapultepec formerly stood 
Montezuma's suburban residence, which has now been replaced by a palace of vast 
size. This huge pile was erected in the last century by the Viceroy Galvez, with 
the intention, said his Mexican subjects, of making it a stronghold from which 
to proclaim his independence as Emperor of Mexico. The palace, a part of which 
has become the military school, commands from its terraces the finest panoramic 
view of the capital with its lakes and encircling mountains. The surroimding 
promenades are also the most umbrageous on the Anahuac plateau. Here are 
found the gigantic '''cypresses" (ciipressus disficha), or ahuehitetes, that is, "Old 
Men of the Waters," which already existed before the arrival of Cortes. Some 
of these giants of the vegetable kingdom, with their wide- spreading branches and 
foliage shaped like a " Spanish beard," have a girth of 50 and a height of 160 
feet. At Churuhusco, a little to the south of this place, the Americans gained the 
decisive victory which made them masters of the capital in 1847. The following 
year was signed the treaty of peace of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which half of the 
national territory was ceded to the United States. 

The aqueduct, which is fed by the various springs from the moimtains south- 
west of Mexico, supplies both the Chapultepec gardens and the aristocratic subui-b 
of Taeuhaya, whose villas are dotted over the district south of Chapultepec. 
From this place excursions are made round about to San Angel, to the picturesque 
group of hamlets nestling in the valleys of Mount Ajusco, and to the pedregal, 
or lava streams, which have flowed from this volcano, but which are now over- 
grown with cactus and brushwood. Tlalpam, famous as a place of pilgrimage, 
lies in a deep ravine between two masses of scoriae ; it was through this ravine 
that the Americans penetrated into the valley of Mexico. 

Xorth-east of the capital the Tepeyacac heights, source of a spring of ferru- 



ginous waters, are crowned by the church of Guadalupe, formerly one of the 
richest in the world, but now spoiled of its treasures bj' the National Government. 
The Virgin of Guadalupe is the special patron of the Indians, while Our Lady 
de los Eemedios was formerly regarded as the tutelar saint of the Spaniards. 
Under the old regime an incessant struggle was carried on between the devotees 
of the two sanctuaries ; but the war of independence secured the definite triumph 
of Guadalupe, so that religion and patriotism are now merged in a single cult. 

On the west side of Lake Texcoco, east of the capital, a volcanic eminence 
rises above the saHne waste, which is made a receptacle for the refuse of the 

Fig. 49. — Tlaxpam and Lake Xochtmilco. 

Scale 1 : 190,000. 

Ixtapalapa '' 

Mexicalcin^o ■- 

Reyes l\T>- ..j^*^^ts. 



West op GreenwicK 


3 Miles. 

neio-hbouring towns. The Pefion de los BanbS, as this eminence is called, is the 
source of a copious ferruginous spring, and here geologists have found some 
fossil human remains. 

The Viga Canal, whose waters reach the capital at its south-east extremity, 
is derived from Lake Xochimllco, or the "Flower-garden," one of the southern 
basins of the Mexican valley. This canal traverses a low-h-ing district cultivated 
by Indian market- gardeners, and their plots are commonly designated by the 
same term, chinampas, which was also applied to the floating islands of the Aztecs, 
formerly moored in hundreds on the surface of Lake Texcoco. But Lake Chalco, 
or the " Emerald," forming an eastern continuation of Xochimilco and encircling 
a cone with a perfectly regular crater, bears in this respect a much more close 



resemblance to the Texcoco of Montezuma ; in the middle of the marshy depres- 
sion maj" still be seen numerous other cbinampas, resting on matted beds of 
aquatic plants and covered with soil brought from a distance. But these plots, 
which are intersected by acalotes, or trenches, are not supported by movable 
rafts ; on the contrary, they gradually form compact masses attached to the shore 
and steadilj' encroaching on the lacustrine basin. Ixtapalapa, or "TThite Town," 
formerly a great ilexican citj' with ''fifteen thousand houses," accordiiig to Cortes, 
stands near the head of the Yiga Canal at Lake Xochimilco, tinder the EslreUa 
or " Star " peak, famous in the religious history of Mexico. Here the priests 

Fisr. 50. — IxBiAN Maekei-Gabdesee's Caxoe. 

assembled at the end of every cycle of 52 years in order to keep up the succession 
of time by solemnly opening a new cycle. Facing the capital at a distance of 
sixteen miles in a straight line on the opposite side of the lake is seen the now 
obscure town of Texcoco, which preceded Mexico and which was long its rival. 
Texcoco was the ancient residence of the Toltec chiefs and the " Athens " of 
Anahuac, for here the Xahuatl language was spoken in its greatest purity and 
elegance. Texcoco has the advantage over Mexico of beiag built on healthy 
groimd above the level of the highest inimdations. The Puerto de las Brigantinas, 
that is, the spot where Cortes built a flotiUa to reduce Mexico, Ues now consider- 
ably over a mile from the margin of the lake. North of Texcoco stands the 
still more ancient city of Otamh,i, formerly Oiompan, which would appear to have 


been the capital of the Otomi nation before the arrival of the Toltecs on the 
Anahuac plateau; it was on the plains of Otumba that Cortes by a decisive 
victory repaired the disaster of the " Sorrowful Night." Otumba and its eastern 
neighbours, Irolo and Apam, surrounded by the most productive maguey planta- 
tions in the republic, are important strategical points guarding the entrance to 
the plains north of the snowy Ixtaccihuatl range. The migrations of conquering 
or vanquished peoples must for the most part have passed through this gateway, 
the possession of which was in former times frequently contested. Eut it was 
avoided by Cortes, who boldly ventured to cross the great range directly by the 
Ahualco pass between Ixtaccihuatl and Popocatepetl. Practicable tracks may 
also be found by rounding the southern flanks of this mountain through the 
village of Amccameca, which encircles the old eruptive cone of Sacro Monte, now 
overgrown with oak-trees. Near the gorge of Apam, or between Texcoco and 
Otumba, there still stand two temples which are supposed to have been erected 
by the Totonacs ; these are the two pyramids of Teotihuacan {TeutUhuacan) , or 
"Abode of the Gods," which are known as the "House of the Sun" and " House 
of the Moon." Reduced to the condition of mere mounds overgrown with agave 
and thorny scrub, they are now diiflcult to recognise as human structures. Never- 
theless the explorations made on the spot leave no doubt as to their artificial 
character. The first or southern pyramid is the broadest and highest, forming 
a square of 700 feet and 180 feet high ; the second, that of the Moon, is both 
much smaller and 36 feet lower, and both face the cardinal points, though not 
with mathematical accuracy. 

Farther south other mounds are scattered over the plain, in some places 
numerous enough to form avenues, such as the "Way of tke Dead," so named 
either because these knolls are really old burial-places, or because it indicates the 
route formerly followed by the processions of human victims on their way to the 
sacred slaughter-houses. East of Apam the plateau rolls away to the southern 
foot of a border range inhabited by a population of Totonac miners, who are 
chiefly grouped round the towns of Zacatlan and Tetcia del Oro. On this plateau 
stands the town of Tlaxdo, and farther south in a narrow glen is seen Tlaxcala, 
formerly capital of the brave republic which espoused the cause of Cortes against 
Montezuma. At present it is the chief town of a small state, which about coin- 
cides with the limits of the old republic, and which is dominated eastwards by 
the Malinche volcano. But Tlaxcala is no longer the great city which could at 
one time marshal 100,000 warriors against the invader. Another decayed 
Mexican city is Huexotzingo, which was founded by the Olmecs, and which is 
constantly mentioned in the reports of the conquerors. 

In this district the most important place at present is Puehla de los Angeles, 
" Angel Town," which was built by the Spaniards on an uninhabited jjlain in the 
year 1530 as a residence for those whites who had been left unprovided for in the 
distribution of ofiices after the conquest. This flourishing citj', capital of a thickly 
peopled state on the plateau and the first slopes facing the Pacific and Atlantic, 
is sometimes called the " second capital of the republic." Under the ephemeral 


"i -.>-'-*! '« 'k. k.t^ 'S9^ '"-.~^:!=^^^^\ •• 

■P.i fcl! r^^-^^r 







reign of Maximilian there was even a question of removing the administration to 
Puebla, which enjoys a far more healthy climate and lies in a more fertile region 
than Mexico. It stands at an altitude of 7,160 feet, that is, something less than 
the federal capital, on an inclined plain, whose rapid streams flow westwards to 
the Mexcala, which winds away to the Pacific. All these rivulets are fed by the 
melting snows, and serve to irrigate the surrounding plains, which yield abundant 
crops of all sorts. Dominated by the two square towers of its sumptuous cathedral 
and by the belfries of over fifty churches, Puebla was formerly inhabited by a 
fanatical population extremely hostile to strangers ; more than once travellers had 
to seek the protection of the troops to avoid being stoned as " Englishmen," 
" Jews " or " heretics." The place is noted especially for its rcbozos, or scarfs, its 
cotton yarns, and for the preparation of little figures in wax or alabaster, sculptured 
vases, onyx stands, and similar objects connected principally with church decora- 
tion. Lying about midway between Mexico and the edge of the plateau, Puebla 
formerly stood on the main route of nearly all the transit traflac between the inte- 
rior and Vera Cruz. But it has lost this commanding position since the opening 
of the main railway from Vera Cruz to the capital, though still connected with 
the general system by branches running eastward, west of the Malinche volcano- 
Puebla owes its prosperity to its great agricultural resources. It also promises to 
become a much-frequented health resort, especially for strangers suffering from aifec- 
tions of the chest ; in the neighbourhood are copious sulphurous thermal springs, 
which probably owe their special properties to the volcanic deposits of Popocatepetl. 
The two steep hills of Guadalupe and Loreto, rising north-east and north of Puebla, 
recall the two most important military events in the modern records of the nation. 
During the war undertaken against Mexico for the restoration of the monarchy, 
General de Lorencez, after forcing the passes and reaching the edge of the plateau at 
the head of 6,000 men, had sent off a despatch announcing that he was already "master 
of Mexico." But right in front of Puebla he found the route blocked by a force 
of 12,000 troops, under Zaragoza, which held possession of the city and of the two 
fortified convents on the hills. The attack made on May 5th, 1862, ended in failiu'e, 
and the French invading army had to retreat to the lower slopes of the plateau. 
Next year an army 20,000 strong again advanced on Puebla, and began a 
regular siege of the place. The investment lasted 62 days, during which the 
Mexican garrison defended every post and station, yielding only after exhausting 
ammunition and supplies, and then partly dispersing to join the troops that held 
the plains. 

Although a large place, Puebla is still inferior in size to the famous city of 
Cholula, which formerly stood in the neighbourhood. This holy city of the Olmecs 
and later of the Aztecs, at one time centre of the textile and pottery industries 
of Anahuac, and founder of the colonies as far south as Nicaragua, is now an obscure 
village and railway-station eight miles from Puebla on the opposite side of the 
deep gorge traversed by the Rio Atoyac. Chiirultecal, as Cortes calls it, is described 
by him as containing 20,000 houses in the central part, and an equal number 
in the outskirts. "Prom the summit of one of the temples," he adds, "I 



Fig. 51.— PUEBLA IN 1862. 
Scale 1 ; 120,000. 

have counted over 400 towers, all belonging to other sanctuaries." But a 
few days after contemplating this panoramic view, the conqueror began the 
work of destruction by fire and sword. Of the 400 temples nothing now 
remains except a few shapeless mounds covered with vegetation. But one of 
these Ij'ing to the south-east of the city is a veritable hill of bricks and layers of 
earth, as shown by the explorations and the cuttings made for the road and the 
railway passing at its foot. According to the local tradition this hill was con- 
structed by order of a giant in honour of the god Tlaloc, who had saved him from 
a deluge, and all the bricks used in the building were passed from hand to hand 
by a string of workmen reaching all the way from the slopes of Popocatepetl 
to Cholula. Its present height, though greatly diminished as shown by the 
irregular sky-line, is 175 feet above the plain, while its enormous base covers an 

extent of 42 acres, nearly four 
times more than that of the 
pyramid of Cheops. No other 
isolated human monument 
approaches these vast propor- 
tions. The platform on the 
summit, where the chapel of 
Our Lady de los Eemedios 
now replaces Quetzalcoatl's 
temple, has an area of about 
5,000 square j'ards, forming a 
stupendous esplanade whence 
the eye glances from the vil- 
lage and gardens of Cho- 
lula to the glittering domes of 
Puebla, from the forest-clad 
slopes of Malinche to the snows 
of Popocatepetl. 

Before the construction of 
the Yera Cruz railway Puebla 
had as its outpost towards the Atlantic the town oiAmozoc, at the converging point 
of the roads to Jalapa and Orizaba. Tepeaca, a little farther on near the outer ram- 
parts of the plateau, also possessed great strategical importance, and Cortes himself 
had chosen this place as a stronghold and Spanish colony under the name of Segura 
de la Frontera, " Safeguard of the Frontier." Next to Vera Cruz, Tepeaca was the 
earliest Spanish foundation in Mexico. This angular corner of the plateau has 
suffered a loss of trade since the main line of the Mexican railways passes farther 
north by Iluamantla and San Andres de Cliakhicomula, the station dominated by 
the cone of Orizaba. Near Chalchicomula, on the very edge of the plateau, the 
station of Usperaiiza lies about midway on the main line between Mexico and 
Vera Cruz. Although occupying a part of the plateau draining to the Pacific, 
neither Puebla nor Cholula is connected by railway with that ocean. But the 

98' 14' West oF Gree-^-iCh 

98° 10' 

. a,300 Yards. 


locomotive has already descended to the temperate zone on this slope, reaching 
Matamoros de Izucar through AtUxco, where is seen a cypress 74 feet in circum- 
ference. Towards the south-east angle of the state another line runs from the 
plateau down to Tehuacan, or Teotihuacan, " City of the Gods," whose sumptuous 
temples were compared by the Spaniards to the palaces of Grenada. 

Teea Crvz. 

This state occupies all the hot zone skirting the Gulf of Mexico, besides a part 
of the temperate lands, from the Rio Panuco to the Eio Tonala beyond Coatzacoalcos. 
It thus extends north-west and south-east a total distance of about 410 miles. Despite 
the marvellous fertility of its upland districts, which lie half-way up the slope, and 
are well exposed to the fogs and rains of the Atlantic, Vera Cruz is not one of the 
populous states of the confederacy ; within its limits are comprised some forest 
lands, as well as sandy, desert, or marshy tracts. The capital has often been 
displaced, and the city which gives its name to the state was itself for some years 
the seat of the government. Orizaba also, for a time, held the same position, 
which at present is enjoyed by Jahpn. This place stands on the slope of the 
extinct ilacuiltepec volcano, which is furrowed by deep gorges. Formerly it 
occupied the rim of a plateau, also scored by eroded gullies. But according to 
the local tradition, the inhabitants of this first Jalapa were so decimated by the 
epidemic of 1537 that they left the place in a body, and settled a little distance 
off on a sunny slope on the opposite side of a neighbouring gorge. The new city, 
with its regular streets winding amid the gardens, is one of the healthiest places 
in Mexico. From its superb avenues is unfolded a magnificent prospect, embracing 
on the one hand the forest-clad heights of the CordiUera from the Orizaba peak 
to the Cofre de Perote, on the other stretching over the orchards and meadows of 
the meandering Eio San Juan vaUey, and again in the far east to the strip of dunes 
fringiug the blue Atlantic waters. Although a small place, Jalapa is one of the 
most important historic cities in Mexico. It occupies a station which is indispens- 
able to all invading armies, to all travellers and traders journeying between the 
coast and the plateau. Formerly, when the commercial monopoly belonged to 
Cadiz, and when the trade with Europe was limited to a fleet forwarded every four 
years, Jalapa was the great market-place for the distribution of the imports and 
the purchase of Mexican produce ; hence its title of Jalapa de la Feria, or, as we 
should say, " Market-Jalapa." It has now lost this commercial role, but it is still 
a health resort, at once a hospital and a convalescent home for the people of the 
lowlands. The yellow fever has never reached Jalapa, which as a sanatorium is 
not only extremely salubrious, but also possesses in the neighbourhood numerous 
efficacious mineral waters, hot and cold, saline and sulphurous. The numerous 
•products of the district surrounding Jalapa, Ciudadde las Flores, " City of Flowers," 
fnuts, cereals, and vegetables, serve mainly for the local consumption ; it exports 
little beyond its medicinal plants, especially the root of ipomea purga, which bears 
the name of this place. The plant is collected by the Indians of the surrounding 



communes, especially Chiron- Quiaco, a village which lies 20 miles farther north, 
and the products of which are the most highly esteemed. 

Jalapa is connected with the Mexican railway sj'stem by a branch which skirts 
the north side of the Co/re de Fcrofc, and then traverses the little town of that 
name. Here is a magnificent and apparently impregnable citadel, which was 
built at a great expense by the Spanish viceroys for the purpose of guarding the 
highway between Vera Cruz and Mexico. Merely to keep it in repair cost over a 
million dollars yearly. But it may now be easily turned, and the citadel of Perote, 
deprived of its strategic importance, has been transformed to a state prison. 

Coafejyec, which lies in the midst of orchards and plantations some nine miles 
south of Jalapa, is also a favourite resort of the coast people. But the little 
centres of population following lower down in the direction of Vera Cruz already 
lie within the dangerous zone which is yearly visited by yellow fever. Several of 
these places have an historic name, having been the battleground of armies con- 
testing the possession of the routes leading up to the plateau. Amongst them is 
the Cerro Gordo, the passage of which was forced by the American troops in 1847. 
Lower down is the Pueiite Nacional, formerly Ptiente del Reij, a monumental bridge 
which crosses the deep barranca of the Rio Antigua. South of Jalapa and Coatepec 
several other towns occupy positions on the escarpments of the plateau analogous 
to that of Jalapa itself. The roads which here creep up the slopes at heights 
varying from 2,800 to 4,000 feet, are scarcely rivalled in the whole world for 
their magnificent views and endless variety of scenery. On emerging from the 
leafy avenues formed by the overhanging bi'anches of conifers and other forest 
growths, the traveller suddenly beholds snowy Orizaba and surrounding ranges, 
with their spurs, terraces, wooded lava-fields, and the lower plains extending in 
the hazy distance down to the curved margin of the blue Atlantic. The flanks of 
the mountains are furrowed from base to summit by gloomy gorges several 
hundred yards deep ; but the walls and taluses of these gorges, where the tracks 
descend as into bottomless wells, are concealed by dense thickets, in which are 
intermingled plants of the torrid and temperate zones. Along the banks of the 
creek flowing on the bed of the barranca, the explorer treads his way as in a vast 
conservatory beneath the pendent foliage of palms and tree ferns. 

Orizaba, which lies in the very heart of the mountains at the foot of Borrego, 
has also a more continuous rainfall than Jalapa, and the exhalations rising from 
the ground are more dangerous. It stands on the site of the ancient Ahuilitzajyan, 
or " Glad Waters," over 4,000 feet above sea-level, on a terrace whose thriving 
plantations are irrigated by copious streams of pure water. 

Nearly all the maritime trade of the state, and about half of all the exchanges of 
the republic, are concentrated in the port of Vera Cru%. The village of Pueblo 
Viejo (Old Town), over against Tampico, in Tamaulipas, is little more than a 
detached suburb of that place. Farther south, Tuxjxtn, accessible only to small 
craft, has a yearly trade of scarcely £200,000. For some time the works have 
been in progress which arc intended to connect it with Tampico by a navigable 
canal traversing the Tamahua and other coast lagoons. On the whole seaboard, 



stretching 135 miles soutli of Vera Cruz, uo sheltered haven anywhere occurs, the 
shore being here everj^vhere fringed -with sands and surf. The old port of Ifciufh, 
which formei-ly gave its name to the whole coast, is now choked with mud. 

The modern city of Yera Cruz is not the same place as that to which its 
founder, Fernan Cortes, gave the name of Villa Rica de Vera Cruz. K^evertheless, 
the first camping- ground must have stood on the beach not far from where the 

Fig. 52. — Obizaba. 
Scale 1 : 60,C'W. 

West oF C-T-een>vlch 

. 2,200 Yards. 

present quays have been built. It was then removed farther north to the village 
of Quiahuifzlan, which, however, was badly chosen, being unhealthj- and destitute 
of any shelter. Hence, four years later a third city was founded farther south near 
the populous Zempoala, capital of the Totonac territory. The river watering the 
plantations of the surrounding district took the name of Antigua in 1599, when 
this settlement was also abandoned, owing to the bar which prevented all access to 
the estuary. The fourth city is that which now exists, and which was founded on 
the coast over against the fortified island of San Juan d'Ulua. It was certainly 



difficult to fiiid a favourable site on sucli an inhospitable coast, studded witb shoals, 
and surrounded by arid or sandy flats and marshy wastes. Medanos. or dunes, raise 
their yellowish slopes immediately beyond the outskirts of the city, changmg their 
form and positions with every storm ; under the influence of the north winds, some 
of these sandhills rise to a height of 160 or 170 feet. 

Seen from a distance Vera Cruz, surrounded by all these medanos, presents a 

Scale 1 : 600,000. 

96 go We t 6? Greenw'.ch 


- 86° 



6 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

12 3Iiles. 

far from attractive appearance ; hence most travellers not detained by business, and 
aware of its evil reputation as a hotbed of fever, pass rapidly on to the more agree- 
able cities of the interior, especially in the hot season when " yellow jack " prevails 
on this seaboard. The epidemic is said to have carried off 2,000 persons in 1862 m 
the Ciudad de los Muertos, " City of the Dead," as it is called in Mexico. Neverthe- 



less, after the scourge has passed the place is not so unhealthy as might he supposed, 
and the whites who have escaped a first attack may consider themselves acclima- 
tised. They run even less risks than those settled on the plateau. By sinking wells 
in the sandy soil, water is reached at a depth of three or four feet, but mostly con- 
taminated by filtration from the neighbouring marshes ; hence good water has had 
to be brought by aqueducts from the River Jamapa. Till recently there was not 
suificient to water the streets or flush the sewers, and all the scavengering was 
left to the zojnlotes, or carrion vultures, which wore protected by police regulations. 

Kg. 54. — Feom Veea Ceuz to Antox Lizaepo. 
Scale 1 : 210,000. 

. C Miles. 

On the Gulf of Mexico, Vera Cruz is the historical city in a pre-eminent sense. 
Here the Spaniards first landed at the time of the discovery and conquest ; here 
also they still held out for four years after losing their possessions. In 1838 the 
Prince de Joinville seized the fortress of San Juan d'Ulua (Ulloa), which stands 
on a low island over half a mile from the city, and which was again occupied by 
the Americans in 1847 and by the French in 1862. In those times the possession 
of this stronghold cut the Mexicans off from all political and commercial relations 
with the rest of the world. At present a mere prison crumbling to ruins, it is 



said to have originally cost Spain and Mexico £8,000,000. Sucli a sum might 
have heen applied to a better purpose by constructing the piers and breakwaters 
required to convert into a sheltered harbour the dangerous roadstead where ship- 
ping has hitherto had to ride at anchor. Such works, however, have at last been 
taken in hand. 

Still farther south lies the roadstead of Anton Lizardo, formerly San Antonio 
Nizardo, which is sheltered by a large cluster of islets and reefs. Eut with all 
its disadvantages, the port of Vera Cruz still remains the chief trading-place on 

Fig. 55. — Habboue Works in Peooeess at Veea Cetjz. 

Scale 1 : 40.000. 





2^ to 5 


5 to 10 

2,200 Yards. 

the Mexican seaboard, monopolising nearly two- thirds of the exchanges of the 
republic. Eut any further delay in constructing a safe and {'.eep harbour could 
not fail to divert the traffic of Vera Cruz to more favoured places. A large 
number of travellers proceeding to Mexico already prefer the more expensive 
railway route to the sea voyage across the Gulf of Mexico. The largest 
share of its trade is with England, after which follow the United States, Germany, 
and France in the order indicated. Coffee and hides are the chief articles of 
export, England and France also taking the fibre of a species of zaeaton {epicanipes) 
used in making fancy brushes. 


The village of Mcdellin, nine or ten miles south of Vera Cruz, recalls the visit 
of Cortes, who in 1522 named this place after his native town in Estremadura. 
The railway is continued beyond this place south-westwards across the dunes and 
forests to the port of Alcarado, on the north side of a large estuary where converge 
the Papaloapan and other streams. The port, which is encircled by high sand- 
hills, is accessible to vessels' drawing eight or ten feet. Here is chiefly shipped 
dried fish cured in large quantities b}' the fishermen who comprise nearly the 
whole population. These fishermen are said to be descended from Spaniards who 
took part in the battle of Lepanto, the anniversary of which victory is still solemnly 
kept. The local skippers also visit the port of Tlacoltapam, the " City of Mos- 
quitoes," which is situated at the confluence of the two navigable Rivers Papa- 
loapan and San Juan. 

MoRELOs, Guerrero, axd Oaxaca. 

The section of the republic lying south of the great volcanic chaia, comprises 
only the three States of Morelos, Guerrero and Oaxaca, together with parts of 
Mexico and Puebla. Although all the inhabitants of this region, whites. Mestizoes 
and even Indians, took an active part in the war of independence, their country 
has remained far more secluded from the general industrial and commercial move- 
ment than the other provinces. South of Morelos and Yautepec no railway has 
yet been constructed down to the Pacific, and all the feeders of the general system 
stop within a short distance of the plateau. But whenever thej' become connected 
with the rest of Mexico these southern provinces, abounding as they do in natural 
resources, will scarcely continue to lag behind the other states ; for their inhabi- 
tants are amongst the most energetic and industrious, and at the same time the 
most upright in the whole commonwealth. They have also the advantage of 
possessing on their seaboard the best harbour in Mexico. 

Citernaraca, capital of Morelos, is not a Spanish foundation, as might be 
supposed from the name, which is a corruption of the Aztec Cuauhnahuac. 
Communicating directly with Mexico, through a pass running east of the Cerro 
de Ajusco, this ancient citj' lies on the Pacific slope about 2,000 feet below 
the federal capital and consequently in the temperate zone. Its lovely oasis of 
verdure is enclosed on thi'ee sides by profound ravines, and its climate is one of the 
mildest and most equable in the republic ; all the plants of West Europe here 
flourish side hj side with those of the torrid zone. Fernan Cortes made a good 
choice when he asked for the fief of this valley, where his castle is now replaced by 
the municipal palace. South-west of this place stands the best-preserved Aztec 
fortress in the republic, the so-called Xochicaico, or " Castle of Flowers." It 
occupies an isolated hill 386 feet high, which is encircled by trenches cut in such a 
way as to form five successive terraces with steps of dressed stone. The whole struc- 
ture presents the appearance of a truncated pyramid, with its four sides exactly 
facing the cardinal points. Its basaltic porphyrj' blocks, all brought from a distance, 
are embellished with hicroglj-phics and figures in relief, amongst others those of 
fantastic animals with human or saurian heads, seated cross-legged, Asiatic fashion. 



The city of Morelos, whicli, although not the capital, takes the same name as 
the state, is the ancient Ctiautla Amilpas, the "Saragossa" of New Spain, which 
for several months held out against the united forces of the Spaniards. It enjoj^s 
the same delightful climate as Cuernavaca and the neighbouring Yautepee ; here 
the sugar-cane thrives, and the fruits raised in the district are now forwarded to 
Mexico by a railway which crosses a saddleback, strewn with little volcanoes, at 
an elevation of 9,730 feet. Morelos, like the other towns of the state, is watered 
by copious streams flowing to the Rio Mexcala. On a northern affluent of the 

Fig. 56. — ACAPULCO. 
Scale 1 : 120,000. 

93° 57- 

West dr. Greenwich 




6 to 10 


10 to 25 

25 to 50 

50 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

, 3,300 Yards. 

same river, but in the State of Guerrero, stands the town of Ta.rco, whence the 
Aztecs obtained lead and tin, and where the Spaniards made their first essays at 
mining work in New Spain. On another tributary lies the famous Iguala, where 
in 1821 was issued the "plan" which the belligerents accepted, and which put 
an end to the Spanish rule in Mexico. Between Taxco and Cuernavaca lies the 
famous Cacahuamili)a cave, whose marvellous galleries, sources of springs and 
rivers, have already been explored for a distance of six miles. 

The semicircular roadstead opening east of the Mexcala delta is too much 
exposed for shipping ; a more favourable anchorage is afforded by the neighbour- 


ing bay of Siguanfaneo, some 60 miles north-east of Zacatula. According to tte 
plans of Gorsucli and Jimenez, this should form the Pacific terminus of the Mescala 
Talley raHTvay, a southern section of the interoceanic line, -loO to 500 miles long, 
which it is proposed to construct from Tuxpan right across the republic. 

Chilpancingo, capital of the State of Guerrero, is a small place standing at an 
altitude of 4,560 feet on the elevated parting-line between the ^lexcala valley 
and the Pacific Ocean. Acapidco, its admirable seaport on the Pacific, has but 
little traffic. Sailing vessels have ceased to visit it, but it remains a regular port 
of call for steamers. The harbour, which presents the form of a vast crater 
breached towards the Pacific, is accessible to the largest vessels, which here find 
complete shelter. But the fringe of palms and bananas does little to mitigate 
the intense heat in this pent-up cirque, where the solar rays are reflected from 
side to side of the surroimding granite cliffs. An opening has been made at 
great expense through the west side, to give access to the cool sea breezes. 

Antequera, an old Spanish foundation dating from the year 1522, has resumed 
the name of the Zapotec fortress of Suaxiacac (Oa.vaca), which lies three or four 
nules farther west. This place, laid out with perfect regularity, is almost un- 
rivalled in ^ilexico for the beauty of its gardens and the fertility of the surround- 
ing plains. A river bearing the Aztec name of Atoyac, or " Punning "Wafer," 
traverses the district, where, at a mean elevation of about 5,000 feet, the plants 
of both zones are intermingled in endless variety. One of the chief industries of 
Oaxaca is the spinning and weaving of the fibre extracted from the species of 
bromelwort known by the name of jjifa. The whole "valley" of Oaxaca, with a 
present population of about 150,000 souls, was formerly the private domain of 
Cortes, whence his title of " Marques del Yalle." 

A few remains of Zapotec structures are seen in the neighbourhood of Oaxaca, 
especially towards the west, where the city of Huaxiacac formerly stood on Mount 
Alban. The ruins of Mitla, the best preserved and according to some travellers 
the finest in Mexico, He some 30 miles to the east. Standing midway up the 
slope of moderately elevated hUls, which, Hke those of Greece, stand out sharply 
against the horizon, the group of Mitla palaces, with the great pyramid whose 
temple is now replaced by a CathoKc shrine, presents somewhat the aspect of a 
dilapidated Acropolis. These edifices may also be compared with the Hellenic 
monuments of the better epoch in the beauty of their proportions and workman- 
ship. The walls are disposed in great parallelograms arranged in long horizontal 
bands, aU embellished with regular designs, cross lines, lozenges, fretwork in 
straight or inclined lines, but with scarcely any curves. 

The waters flowing from Oaxaca, Mitla, and the intervening hills all converge 
sis miles south-east of the capital near the village of Sania Maria del Tide, or of 
the " Eeeds." Trees of colossal size are not rare in this region, and the houses 
of the village are grouped round the largest of these giants, which was formerly 
regarded as sacred. It is a sahino, or "cj-press" {taxodiu.m mucronatum), which 
is said to be the largest tree in the whole world ; at least it exceeds in thickness 
all those of which measui-ements have been taken. The so-called "' Hundred- 



Horse Chestnut " is now divided into three distinct stems, through which a road 
has been driven ; the dragon-tree of Orotava, which had a girth of 46 feet, has 
disappeared ; the gigantic sequoias of California were felled in I800 ; the Mon- 
travail oak near Saintes is 86 feet round, and the largest baobabs and other 
African giants are described by Cadamosto, Adanson, and others as from 96 to 
112 feet in circumference. But in 1882 the Tule cj'press had a girth of no less 
than 118 feet three or four feet from the ground, and 150 feet including all the 
prominences and cavities of the trunk. 

The route from Oaxaca to the sea, leaving on the right the valley of the 

rig-. 57. — Chief Rums of Centeal Mexico. 
Scale 1 : 9,000,000. 


West pF Green.v^ch 

m Miles. 

Atoyac, which winds away westwards to the frontiers of Guerrero, runs at an 
altitude of 7,460 feet over the crest of the Cimaltepec coast range. Near the summit 
stands the industrial village of Miahnatlan, whose inhabitants are skilful straw- 
plaiters, which thej' work into a thousand fancy articles exported far and wide. 
The cochineal industry was formerly the chief resource of the district, but the 
southern slopes are now covered with coffee plantations which yield excellent 
results. Hence the cultivation of the shrub has been rapidly developed even to 
a distance of 40 or 50 miles inland. The high prices obtained by the growers 
have enabled them to introduce costly machinery for drying and sorting the 
berry. Thanks to this growing industry Puerto Angel, the badly sheltered outlet 



of Oaxaca, has acquired some commercial importance since its foundation in 1868. 
On tlais coast the best harbour is that of Huafulco {Guatuko, Coafoko), where a 
channel 650 j-ards wide gives access to a well-sheltered basin from 25 to 50 feet 
deep. The little fishing station of Crespon, which collects pearl oj-sters and the 
purple-yielding.murex, stands on the beach within the harbour. At a neighbour- 
Fig. 58.— Isthmus or Tehttaittepec. 

Scale I : 2.600,000. 

Tu r%V' ^P" 

3 A A° 'S Ma a if 

4 V ^Chmaap, ^tS 

<■•.-?>'* ' 


West or GreenwicK 


. CO Miles. 

ing headland the sea plunges into a cavernous recess, reappearing farther ofE in 
a biifadero, or jet, about 150 feet above the surface. 

About one-third of the state is drained by the Rivers Papaloapan and Coatza- 
coalcos, which belong to the Atlantic basin. On this northern slope the chief 
place is I.rtlan, which lies in a fertile district of the upper Papaloapan valley 
ever against the superb Mount San Felipe. Ixtlan now also bears the name of 



ViUn Juarez, from the most distinguished of its citizens, the Juarez who main- 
tained Mexican independence against ilaximilian. In the eastern part of Oaxaca 
the chief town is Tehuantepec, or " Tiger Mountain," an old city of the Huabi 
people, which was founded at an epoch previous to the Zapotec occupation of the 
land. It is the only place in the district deserving the name of "town," and it 
is so completely divided into separate quarters by mounds and ridges that it has 
rather the aspect of a group of villages. In the vicinity are some magnificent 
palm and orange groves, and gardens yielding. choice fruits. 

"While proud of its past, Tehuantepec is still more confident of its future, as 
controlling one of the future commercial highways of the world. The railway 

, .59. — Sauna Cbfz. the kew Poet of TzHrA^-rEPEC. 

Scale I ; 60,000. 

\Ve St c? G'-ee"'^ ct- 




5 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

— 2,200 Yards. 

across the isthmus is making rapid progress, and has already surmounted the 
highest passes of the hiUs between the two oceans, so that the coffee grown on the 
Pacific slope is now often forwarded by the overland route, saving several thousand 
miles between Central America and Europe. 

About nine miles to the south-west lies the old port of Tehuantepec, on a 
badly sheltered bay, which would have to be protected by expensive hydraulic 
works to make it suitable for its future trafiic ; meanwhile choice had to be made 
of Salina Cruz Bay, where the shipping finds some shelter behind a pier at the 
terminus of the interoceanic route. 

East of Tehuantepec, on the strips of sand between the lagoons and the sea, are 
scattered some 3,000 Huabi fishers, the last of a race whose ancestors contended 



with the Mijes and Zapotecs for the supremacy in this region. In the north-east, 
towards the centre of the isthmus, the two towns of Chimalapa, distinguished by 
the names of their tutelar saints, are inhabited by the interesting Zoquo Indians, 
who speak a language of unknown origin. 

Scale 1 ; 200,000. 


■West op Greenwich 





5 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 3 MUes. 

Minatitlan, on the Coatzacoalcos, at the head of the navigation for ships drawing 
ten or twelve feet, is the northern or Atlantic port of the isthmus. At present an 
obscure trading place, it seems destined soon to become a flourishing seaport. It 
is already connected with the mouth of the Coatzacoalcos by a railway, which is 
continued southwards in the direction of Tehuantepec. Minatitlan, standing at 


the northern approach to the isthmus, has also been chosen as the junction of the 
Kne which is intended to run from Vera Cruz towards Yucatan and Guatemala. 

The neighbouring town of JaUlpan is dominated by a moimd which, according 
to the local tradition, was raised by Cortes to the memory of Malintzin, or Dona 
Marina, the Indian woman to whose sagacity and foresight he was probably indebted 
for the conquest of Mexico. A French and Swiss colony founded in 1828 at Los 
Almagri's survived a few years despite the climate and homesickness. The few 
remaining settlers were at last dispersed amongst the Mexican towns. A Chinese 
merchant of San Francisco, owner of extensive estates in the isthmus, has recently 
introduced a large number of his fellow-countrymen into the same district where 
they are employed on the rice and tea plantations. 

III.— ^-East Mexico. 
Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeaciiy, Yucatax. 

The Chiapas highlands, distinctly separated bj' the depression of the Tehuan- 
tepec isthmus from the Mexican tablelands, belong evidently to the same natural 
region as the highlands and plateaux of Guatemala. Both are disposed in a con- 
tinuous chain, with their steep escarpments turned towards the Pacific, while 
the opposite slopes fall gently northwards towards the alluvial lands of Tabasco 
and the plains of Yucatan. This peninsula, whose roots are, so to say, sunk in the 
morasses and branching deltas of Tabasco, projects its huge quadrilateral mass 
beyond the continental coastline in the direction of Cuba, and is continued by a 
submerged plateau, which forms geographically a part of that island. Thus the 
whole of East Mexico from Chiapas to Yucatan constitutes a natural region quite 
distinct from the rest of the republic, from which it also differs in the origin and 
history of its inhabitants, both in pre- and post-Columbian times. But in pro- 
portion to its size it is greatly inferior in importance to "West Mexico. It is but 
sparsely peopled, and its great natural resom'ces have scarcely begun to be utilised. 
The four eastern states have an estimated population of not more than six or eight 
to the square mile. 

The natural parting-line of the two regions indicated by the Tehuantepec 
peninsula was also formerly a political frontier. Under the Spanish rule Chiapas 
was temporarily attached to the administrative division of Oaxaca in 1776, but for 
nearly the whole of the three hundred }'ears that elapsed from Alvarado's con- 
quering expedition of 1523 to the proclamation of independence in 1823, Chiapas 
and the Pacific province of Soconusco were simple dependencies of the viceroj^alty 
of Guatemala. When Guatemala entered the Mexican union, the two dependent 
provinces also became an integral part of Iturbide's empire. But when Guatemala 
again asserted its political autonomy, it was unable to recover more than a small 
part of Soconusco, and the disputed frontier was not determined even in diplo- 
matic documents till the year 1882. 

Yucatan, also, which had constituted a special division in the viceroyalty of 
New Spain, became a Mexican province after the proclamation of independence. 


!6ut in 1840 an insurrection was caused by the numerous abuses of the central 
government. The ilexican garrisons were expelled and the officials deposed ; so 
unanimous was the public sentiment of the Yucatan people that the change was 
effected without bloodshed. Two years afterwards a Mexican force of 11,000 
men besieged the town of Campeachy, but the besiegers themselres, reduced by 
battle and fever to a fourth of their original strength, had to capitulate, and the 
Mexican Government recognised the complete autonomy of Yucatan, which on its 
part gave a nominal adhesion to the federal union. But after the national victory, 
discord broke out between the two rival cities of Campeachy and Merida, both 
of which aspired to the title of capital. 

Then the Indians themselves, trained to warfare during these incessant struggles 
in which they bad been compelled to take part, seized the opportunity to proclaim 
their own independence against their white masters. Thus it happened that in 
order to maintain their existence and pri^-ileges, the white populations had first to 
settle their own differences, and then come to terms with the Mexican republic. 
The social war lasted many years, and ended in the triumph of the Indians, who 
succeeded in maintaining their independence in the southern part of the peninsula. 
From this district the Mexicans are now excluded, and even European travellers 
are not allowed to penetrate into the country except under the protection of a 
native chief. In this direction Yucatan is thus separated from Guatemala by a 
broad zone of tmreduced populations, just as it is separated from Mexico proper by 
still uninhabited wastes. 

Physical Features. 

The mountain range which begins east of the Tehuantepec isthmus and is 
continued through Guatemala and Central America is more entitled, by its 
regularity and relative altitude, to the name of Sierra Madre, which is of such 
frequent occurrence in Hispano- American lands. The first summits rise abruptly 
above the forests of the isthmus, where the Atravesado ridge is already 5,000 feet 
high, and is followed eastwards by several other summits exceeding 6,500 feet. 
The formation is mainly porphyritic, with volcanic cones appearing at intervals, 
amongst others the famous Soconusco (7,900 feet), the ancient Xoconochco, which 
gives its name to the surrounding plains and to the whole southern slope of the 
State of Chiapas. According to the natives, Soconusco still emits vapours, but 
no mention is made of eruptions which would appear to have occurred in within 
comparatively recent times. On the other hand tlie Indians greatly fear the 
Tacana volcano, which has been chosen as the common frontier between Mexico 
and Guatemala. Tacana is a regular cone which, according to Dollfus and De 
Mont-Serrat, must certainly exceed 11,500 feet. It is nearly always wrapped in 
smoke, and frequently in a state of eruption. 

Towards the Pacific the Sierra Madre falls Very abruptly, the crest of the 
range here running at a mean distance of 25 to 30 miles from the shore. On the 
other hand the Atlantic slope is comparatively gentle, though the dechvity is 
not regular like that of an iacliued plane. It is broken by deep valleys and 



rugged cliains, vlaieli the running waters have carved iuto isolated masses or 
irregular ridges, but which are mainly disposed parallel with the Sierra Madre. 

The central part of Chiapas may be regarded as a hilly plateau, above which 
rise sharp peaks such as Hueitepec, east of San Cristobal, which is said to be 7,450 
feet high. Northwards the plateau has been cut by the streams into roimded 
hills, which gradually merge in the alluvial plains. Towards the west the 
plateau terminates above the plains of the isthmus in the superb Mount Gineta. 

Fig-. 61. — Bauk of Yucatan. 

Scale 1 : 6,500,000. 



W<-St oF Gr 


to 100 

100 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 124 Miles. 

This gently undulating country, covered with woods and diversified with running 
waters, is one of the finest regions in Mexico. 

In Yucatan proper there are no mountain ranges ; only in the southern 
parts of the peninsula towards the Guatemalan and British Honduras frontiers 
the surface is broken by a few low spurs and offshoots from the orographic 
systems of those regions. The quadrangular mass limited southwards by a con- 
ventional line drawn across the solitudes from the Terminos to the Chetumal 
lagoon, is nothing but a huge limestone plateau rising above the surrounding 
waters, and broken here and there by a few narrow ridges. The mean altitude 
.scarcely exceeds 100 feet, while the highest rising grounds would appear to 


attain an elevation of not more than 500 feet above the average height of Yucatan. 
These rising grounds constitute a sort of backbone disposed in the direction 
from south-east to north-west towards the blunt angle of the peninsula, and 
connected with a ridge that skirts the west coast of Campeachy. Wooded' hills 

Fig. 62. — Alaceajj Reef. 
Scale 1 : 230,000. 


West oF Grr enwich 


10 Fathoms 
and upwards. 


— SJJIiles. 

also run from south-west to north-east in the direction of Cape Catoche. This cal- 
careous mass, forming an almost geometrical square, is continued by a submarine 
bank far beyond the coastline, except on the east side, which is washed by deep 
waters where the plummet plunges into depths of several hundred yards within 
a few cable-lengths of the shore. The large island of Cozumel, with the banks 



forming its northern continuation, is separated from the mainland by a profoimd 
channel where the waters of a coast current set steadily from south to north at a 
velocity of two or tbree miles an hour. South of Cozumel the dangerous Chin- 
chorro bank, as well as Arrowsmith on the north side, is also a coralline limestone 
mass rising from the bed of a deep basin ; but the creeks, bays and other inlets 
on the coast, especially those of Espiritu Santo and Asuncion, are almost completely 
choked with sands and reefs. 

The submarine pedestal of Yucatan begins at the north-east angle of the 
peninsula, and extends over 125 miles northwards, thus embracing the island of 
Mujeres and the cluster of islets in the vicinity of Cape Catoche. The escarp- 
ment of the submarine bank, as indicated by the sounding line plunging suddenly 
into depths of 100, 250, 1,000 and even 1,500 fathoms, thus describes a great 
curve round Yucatan, roughly parallel with the coast. The still-submerged 
portion is far more extensive than the upheaved peninsula itself, and may be 
estimated at about 60,000 square miles. Should it ever rise above the surface of 
the sea, it will present the aspect of an almost horizontal limestone mass, in its 
general appearance exactly resembling the present peninsula. The numerous 
cayos (cays or reefs) scattered over this submarine plateau, Alacran, Arenas, Los 
Triangulos, Areas, are all coralline rocks similar to those fringing the coast of the 
mainland, and all have their most active colonies of polypi on the outer face turned 
towards the surf rolling in from the high seas. It was at the Alacran, or 
"Scorpion," Reef that the Valdivia -was -wrecked in l^jll, the crew escaping in a 
longboat to the Yucatan coast near Cape Catoche. Geronimo de Aguilar, one of the 
two survivors, afterwards became Cortes' interpreter during the conquest of 

The Arenas cays, near the south-west corner of the bank, consist of a few 
islets frequented by myriads of aquatic birds and covered with guano. In 1854 
the Mexicans first began to work these deposits ; they were followed by the 
Americans, who claimed to be the first occupants, and on that ground pretended 
that the cay belonged to the United States. This claim to a bank obviously lying 
in Yucatan waters gave rise to long diplomatic discussions. 


The fluvial systems of East Mexico present in Chiapas and Yucatan a contrast 
analogous to that of the relief of these regions. In Chiapas the running waters 
flow in superabundance on the surface of the ground ; in Yucatan, water has to 
be sought at great depths in the chasms of the rocks. East of the Rio Tonala, 
which forms the boundary between the States of Vera Cruz and Tabasco, the 
whole of the Atlantic slope as far as Yucatan belongs to the two united basins of 
the Grijalva and Usumacinta, which rise in the same district on the Guatemalan 
uplands and enter the Gulf of Mexico through the same channel. The Grijalva, 
which flows under several different names at different parts of its circular course, 
has its chief sources in the province of Huehuetenango, and the town of this name 
is itself watered by one of its headstreams. After entering Mexican territory 



it is Joined in quick succession by most of its upper affluents, and here it takes the 
name of Rio Grande or Rio de Chiapa, from the town standing on its banks. In 
this part of its course it falls in a steep incline through a series of rapids and 
cascades, and near Ghiapa suddenly plunges into a rocky chasm whence it escapes 
at a much lower level farther down. Where it becomes navigable it describes 
a great bend towards the west under the name of the Rio Mezcalapa, and on 
reaching the low-lying plains only a few yards above sea-level, it assumes its 

Kg. 63. — The UsTTMAcnrrA. — View taken at the Paso Yalchilau, on the GrtiATEiiALAN Fkon-tieb. 

official title of Grijalva from the navigator by whom it was discovered in the year 
1519. But the natives have preserved the old name of Tabasco, which Bernal 
Diaz learnt from the Indians during the same expedition. On reaching the 
alluvial plains the main stream begins to ramify in various directions, throwing 
off some branches seawards, others to the TJsumacinta, which is much the larger 
of the two rivers. 

The TJsumacinta, less known than the Grijalva because traversing a very 

L 2 


sparsely peopled region, also receives its first contributions from the " altos," 
or uplands, of Guatemala. According to Brasseur de Bourbourg, the Eio Blanco, 
the main headstream, soon after the Rio Negro confluence trends at first eastwards 
in the direction of Honduras Bay. But after changing its name ten times accord- 
ing to the tribes settled on its banks, the Rio Chixoy or Lacandon, as it is here 
usually called, turns north and north-west to its confluence beyond the uplands 
with the Rio de la Pasion, a yellowish stream from the border ranges south of 
British Honduras. It mostly flows sluggishly between its wooded banks, but 
during the rainy season it floods its banks and at times rises 50 feet above low- 
water level. Below the confluence the united stream takes the name of 
Usumacinta, under which it is indicated in the diplomatic conventions, according 
to which it has been chosen for a space of nearly 70 miles as the common frontier 
of Mexico and Guatemala. Navigable by canoes throughout a great part of its 
upper course, the Usumacinta pierces the last range of hills by a series of gorges 
and rapids which obstruct all navigation by large craft. This section, where the 
stream is contracted between vertical walls, takes the name of Boca del Cerro, or 
"Mouth of the Moimtain." The people employed in felling mahogany and cedar 
in this district mark the blocks and throw them into the current, by which they 
are carried from rapid to rapid down to Tenosique. Here the stream resumes its 
placid course, and is soon joined by the Rio San Pedro from Lake Peten in 
Guatemala. The waters of this affluent are so thoroughly saturated with carbonate 
of Ume that the snags arrested by the reefs are rapidly petrified and thus form 
bars athwart the stream. 

Beyond the confluence the Usumacinta follows a winding course through the 
flat plains, till the first branches of the delta begin to ramify from the main stream 
some 60 miles above the Gulf. Some of these branches trend north-eastwards 
towards the Terminos lagoon, some flow straight to the sea, while others intermingle 
their waters with branches from the Grijalva and from the secondary aSluents of 
the twin river. Including the channels discharging into the Terminos lagoon, 
the face of the delta has a development of about 125 miles, while all the ramifica- 
tions occupy a space that may be estimated at 6,000 square miles. Scarcely any 
other fluvial basin of like size has created such an extensive accumulation of sedi- 
mentary matter in the waters of a marine Inlet. 

The Barra de Tabasco, or principal channel, lies about the middle of the delta 
region, and has a depth of from seven to ten feet according to the seasons. This 
channel is deepest during the prevalence of the north winds, especially in the dry 
season. During the floods, when the sea is covered with a j'ellowish water for a 
distance of 35 miles from the coast, the bar is considerably raised by the sediment 
brought down with the flood waters, so that at such times vessels drawing no more 
than six or seven feet will not always venture to force the obstruction. The San 
Pedro, another branch of the delta lying farther east, although shallower. Is more 
constant. The deepest, but also one of the most shifting, passages Is that of Chil- 
tepec in the east, where the soimding-line occasionally reveals a depth of thirteen 
feet. Here is discharged the Rio Seco, or " Dry River," which Is supposed to have 



been the chief branch when these coasts were surveyed by Grijalva. In the inte- 
rior of Tabasco the Grijalva and Usumacinta present in their numerous ramifvinw 
branches a collective navigable water-system several hundred miles long even in 
the dry season. In IS-iO, 1843, and 184-5, Texan, Yucatan, and American fiotUlas 
of war easily penetrated into the Grijalva as far as the landing-stage of San Juan 
Bautista, the capital, over 80 miles above the bar. The Usumaciuta also is navi- 
gable during the floods for nearly 200 miles from its mouth, while light river- 
craft ascend still farther above the rapids. 

In a region of loose, soft soil changes are necessarily frequent, every inundation 

Scale 1 : 2,000,000. 



30 Slfles. 

modifying the aspect of the land. "When the streams rise and overflow their banks 
a great part of the State of Tabasco is laid under water. A space of about 2,000 
square miles within the fijsed coastline disappears regularly during the winter 
floods. A first rise caused by the summer rains takes place towards the end of 
June, but it is usually of short duration, and is followed after an interval of three 
months by the second rise, which usually begins in October and lasts till ilarch, 
or for about half the year. During this period all land travelling becomes impos- 
sible, and the inhabitants move about by water. But almost every channel and 


backwater offers them a passage through the forests. Thousands of such channels, 
flowing now one way, now another, according to the currents of the affluent rivers, 
cover the whole country with an endless network of navigable waterways masked 
from view by the floating masses of nympheae and other aquatic plants. 

The Terminos lagoon, which receives a portion of the Usumacinta waters through 
the branch known as the Rio Palizada, and which is also fed by several other 
streams, such as the Chumpan, Candelaria, and Mamantel, is an eastern continua- 
tion of the low-lying plains of Tabasco. An upheaval of a few j'ards would suffice 
to expose its sandbanks and change its navigable channels to stagnant waters. 
The shore line, which will serve as a rampart for the future lands now being 
gradually created by the fluvial deposits, already exists in the chain of the two long 
islands, Aguada and Carmen, which close the entrance of the lagoon, leaving only 
three passages for vessels of light draught. The Puerto Escondido, or "Hidden 
Port," as the eastern channel is called, is only a few inches deep on the siU, and 
this depth is seldom increased to three or four feet even by the tides, except when 
accompanied by strong sea winds. The insular spits are merely sandy beaches 
rising scarcely six or seven feet above sea-level, so that a few miles from land 
nothing is seen except the continuous Hne of trees behind which stretch the still 
waters of the inland lagoon. On different majjs the contour lines of this lagoon 
are differently figured ; they differ, in fact, according to the seasons, the winds and 
the quantity of sediment washed down by the affluents. On the north side the 
sheet of water is continued jjarallel with the shore for a distance of some 60 miles. 
This extension of the lagoon is merely a brackish channel gradually narrowing 
towards its northern extremity, where it is nothing more than a feeble seaward 
passage occupying the bed of an old inlet on the coast. The lagoon received the 
name of Terminos in 1518 from the pilot Antonio de Alaminos, who supposed that 
the " island " of Yucatan " terminated " at this point. 

Farther north as far as the neighbourhood of Campeachy a few small coast 
streams reach the sea. But beyond that place all the rainwater rapidly dis- 
appears in the porous limestone soil ; not a single rivulet it visible, although there 
exist in the Interior a few lacustrine basins, formed probably in the depressions 
where more close-grained rocks approach the surface. Such is, towards the middle 
of the peninsula, the brackish Lake Chichankanab, which stretches north and south 
a distance of about fifteen miles. Other smaller sheets of water are scattered over 
the north-eastern district and, according to native report, lagoons are also numerous 
towards the neck of the peninsula west of British Honduras. But neither rivers, 
springs, nor any surface waters are seen in the more densely-peopled central, north- 
western, and northern districts, where nothing occurs except some morasses tem- 
porarily flooded during the rainy season. The moisture, however, is collected in 
the bowels of the earth above the impermeable rocks, and, thanks to the natural 
galleries occurring here and there, the inhabitants are able to reach these under- 
ground reservoirs, from which they draw their supplies. 

In these deep cavities the water does not appear to flow as in subterranean rivers, 
but rather spreads out in vast basins which communicate with one another through 



endless channels, while the whole Liqiiid mass filters slowly in the direction of the 
sea. Some of the labyrinthine underground streams are inhabited br crocodiles 
as well as by the teh (momofus), a species of bird with silken plumage and tail 
made of two long feathers. 

The caverns, or cenofes, a word borrowed by the Spaniards from the Maya 
language, increase in depth as the land recedes from the coast and rises to a 
higher level above the sea. At Merida they lie from 25 to 30 feet below the sur- 
face, and each house has its well sunk far enough to tap the reservoir. Farther 

Fig. 65. — TEEiOxos Lagoox. 
Scale 1 : 1,400.000. 

\,e5t c*F G'-ee^^c^ 



10 Fathoms 

. SO Miles. 

north-west of Merida and Yalladolid, that is, in the dii-ection of the sea, the basins 
lie nearer to the surface, so that the distance from the coast may be estimated by 
the depth to which the weUs have to be sunk to reach the reservoirs. On the coast 
itself the water bubbles up at the shore line, where it mingles with the tides amid 
the mangrove bushes. This natural distribution of the water, so different from 
what occurs in other regions, is the essential feature in the physical geography of 
Yucatan. The fluid is nowhere to be seen, yet its effects are everywhere manifest 
in the well-irrigated grotmds and the sanitary condition of the houses. Morning 
and evening long processions cf women pass up and down the steps leading to the 



cenotes. Through the increasing gloom they follow the inclines excavated obHquely 
in the rocky wall until they reach the vaults from which hang stalactites entwined 
by long pendent alga). Here they fill their large pitchers with the dark fluid, 
which has to be brought laboriously to the surface. The work entailed on the 
women is perhaps heaviest at the cenote of Bolonchen, or the " Nine Springs," a 
ruined village lying north-east of Campeachy on the road to Merida. Here the 
deep cavity is reached through fissures in the rock and spiral stairs forming a 
gallery altogether nearly 550 yards long and descending to an absolute depth of 
about 410 feet below the surface of the ground. 

The form of the coast-Hne along the northern seaboard of the peninsula may 

Fig. 66.— The Rio of Yucatan. 
Scale 1 : 4,000,000. 



tWest op- Greenwich 



50 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 60 Miles. 

be partly explained by the pressui-e of the inland waters spreading out beneath 
the surface of the limestone plateau. A strip of land fringes the shore at the 
north-east corner of Yucatan, but it has not the free development of the littoral 
cordons skirting the Texas and Tamaulipas coasts on the opposite side of the 
Gulf. It is disposed in a narrow band near the true shore-line, the outer and 
inner beaches presenting the same curves with a surprising parallelism. It 
becomes somewhat less regular towards the eastern extremity, where it is inter- 
rupted at several points, and even forms the large island of Holbox facing the 
Boca del Conil ("Rabbit's Mouth"), a considerable inlet, where extremely copious 
springs bubble up amid the marine waters about a quarter of a mile from the 
coast. The normal cordon, beginning west of this inlet, runs for a distance of 


170 miles, broken only by two narrow passages facing two streamlets — exceptional 
phenomena on this part of the seaboard. 

The narrow channel separating the mainland from its shifting outer beach 
is known by various names, such as laguna, pantano, tierra fangosa, but is more 
commonly called the rio, or river, or even the Rio Lagartos, " Crocodile River." 
At first sight this term " river " would seem to be scarcely justified by a long 
channel, which during the dry season is interrupted at several points. It is 
crossed not only by fords, but even by tracks and now by roads and railway 
embankments, and here and there by a tangle of bushy growths, leaving of the 
rio nothing but narrow stretches of meres or lagoons. I^umerous springs reappear 
in the open sea, but the channel itself receives most of the overflow from the 
underground reservoirs, and the sediment brought down from these sources 
suffices to maintain the rampart of sands and broken coral reefs by which the 
marine waters are kept at some distance from the shore. At the north-west 
corner of Yucatan the fringing sandy cordon cuj-ves round southwards with 
almost geometrical regularity, terminating near a point of the coast known by 
the name of Desconocida. This double shore-line coincides with that of the 
marine current, which skirts the beach from east to west, and which here meets 
a counter- current setting from the coasts of Tabasco and Campeachy under the 
action of the northern winds. At the point where they clash the two marine 
currents develop a strong whirlpool, by which the shore is eroded. A studj' of 
the Yucatan seaboard gives the impression that the peninsula has been gradually 
formed and continues to increase by these outer strips of sand, shells, and coral 
reefs successively added to the mainland. 

Climate, Flora, Fauna. 

As In their relief and hydrographic systems, Chiapas and Yucatan diEEer also 
in their climates, though to a less extent, for both regions are comprised within 
the torrid zone with a temperature approaching the equatorial mean. The 
Chiapas slope facing the Pacific lies entirely within the play of the alternating 
monsoons. The north and north-east winds prevail in winter from November to 
April, while the vendaval, or south wind, that is, the monsoon proper, dominates 
in summer from May to October, when the sim is at the zenith. Nevertheless 
the normal atmospheric currents are subject to disturbances, by which they are 
frequently replaced by winds blowing from different points of the compass. 
Both their direction and force are, in fact, endlessly modified by the inequalities 
of relief, the varying trend and outlines of the rising grounds. As a rule, dry 
weather and clear skies prevail in winter, while the summer monsoon is accom- 
panied by rains, thunderstorms, and tornadoes. 

Yucatan is mainly exposed to the action of the north-east trade ^ond, but 
the almost exclusively limestone formation destitute of surface waters becomes 
during the hot season a focus of attraction for all the surrounding sea breezes. 
Stimulated by the intense solar heat during the day, these winds follow the course 


of the sun round the horizon. The regular trades are also frequently interrupted 
by the fierce gales coming from the north, that is, from the Texan and Mississippi 
plains. The driest mouths are March, April and May, when showers are extremely 
rare. But, as in Chiapas, this dry season is immediately followed by torrential 
downpours and thunderstorms, lasting till November, when the almost rainless 
regular winds again set in. The year might thus be divided into three periods, 
a dry, a wet, and a windy season. 

For Europeans the Yucatan climate is one of the most dangerous in the Gulf. 
Yellow fever often sweeps away numerous victims; but still more dreaded is 
consumption, which is both endemic and hereditary, alike fatal to those con- 
stitutionally predisposed and to persons enjoying good health and strength. 
Mexican soldiers, removed as a punishment to the peninsula, consider themselves 
foredoomed to death. In Tabasco, a watery region where the people live as much 
afloat as on dry land, the prevailing epidemic is marsh fever. In this moist land 
consumption, the scourge of the dry Yucatan plateau, is almost unknown. 

Both the flora and the fauna of Chiapas and Yucatan belong to the same zone 
as those of south Mexico, with the addition of various forms characteristic of 
Central America. This southern region, intermediate between Mexico proper 
and the isthmuses, nowhere presents any desert wastes, and the vegetation is 
extremely luxuriant in many places, even on the slopes of the Soconusco 
Mountains and the neighbouring coastlands, where the rainfall is far from 
copious. Tree ferns, the cacao and other plants requiring much moisture and 
a constantly humid atmosphere, grow vigorously, while on the lowlands rice 
thrives without ii-rigation. The scanty rainfall is here supplemented by the 
moisture percolating below the surface from the rising grounds. Even the arid 
limestone plains of Yucatan are clothed with a stunted vegetation ; very different, 
however, from the magnificent forest growths festooned with lianas, which cover 
the fertile districts of Chiapas and Tabasco. Little is seen except thorny scrub 
and cactus or agave thickets, without any of the large species which, on the 
Anahuac uplands, grow to a height of over 30 feet. Here the rain-water dis- 
appears too rapidly in the porous limestone to nourish a rich vegetation. 

Amongst the plants pecidiar to Chiapas and Yucatan, and not found in Mexico 
proper, there are many trees and dyewoods, such as mahogany and campeachy, or 
logwood {hiematoxylon campechianum) . The former is even more common in 
various parts of Central America than in Tabasco, while the latter is exclusively 
confined to the region from which it takes its ordinary name. In favourable 
localities this hard-grained plant sometimes attains a height of from 40 to 45 feet. 

Amongst the more remarkable members of the Chiapas faima is the " snuff- 
box " tortoise, which has its lower shell furnished at both ends with two appen- 
dices enabling it to shut itself completely up and defy all enemies. 

Like that of Anahuac, the population of East Mexico is very mixed, although 
the indigenous element is here relatively greater. The Nahuas proper are repre- 


sented in Soconusco along the historic route by which the Aztecs in comparatively 
recent times migrated from Anahuac to Nicaragua. The warlike Chiapauec nation 
still survives in the north-west part of the state which from them takes the name 
of Chiapas. The more numerous but less cultured Tzendals, Tzotzils, and Quelens 
("Bats") occupy the forest regions comprised between the Tehuantepec depression 
and the Gruatemalan frontier. Lastly, the numerous nomad or settled groups 
belong to the same family as those of west Guatemala — Lacandons and Chontals 
in the north, Chols and Chafiabals in the centre, Mames in the south. They all 
appear to be connected by language, primitive usages, and traditions with the 
cultured Mayas of Yucatan, the most advanced representatives of this ethnical 
dinsion. The Mayas held out more valiantly against the Spaniards than the 
Aztecs ; they would also appear to have reached a higher degree of civilisation 
than the Nahuas in pre-Columbian times. Although never actually visited by 
Columbus, he had, nevertheless, heard of their fame. The work of extermination, 
as described by Las Casas and Diego de Landa, resulted in the almost total dis- 
appearance of the Maya race ; which, however, has gradually revived and even 
preserved the national speech. Those acquainted with Spanish are said to abstain 
from speaking it, and Maya is still generally current in all the rural districts 
except in the neighbourhood of Campeachy. In the inland provinces the 
descendants of the Spaniards have to a large extent forgotten their mother tongue, 
and in Yucatan the conquerors may be said to have themselves been conquered. 
Even in Merida everybody is obliged to learn Maya in order to hold inter- 
course with the maceguales {mazehuati), as the natives are called. 

The Spaniards and Mestizoes are represented chiefly in the towns and southern 
parts of Chiapas which are traversed by the more-frequented highways between 
Mexico and Guatemala. The half-caste Maya-Spanish race is one of the finest 
in America, and the women especially are remarkable for their personal charms. 
It is noteworthy that the Indian type of featui'es is perpetuated from generation 
to generation. However white the complexion may become, the Yucatec Mestizo 
always preserves certain Maya traits by which he may be at once recognised. 

The range of the Maya language, which embraces the Huaxtec territory in the 
State of Vera Cruz, extends far beyond the frontiers of Yucatan, for it comprises 
nearly the whole of Tabasco, a part of Chiapas, and about half of the Guatemalan 
repubKc. According to their own traditions the Mayas reached the peninsula 
from opposite directions, from east and west, from the sea and the mainland. A 
god had guided them across the ocean, and it is certain that they were acquainted 
with navigation. They had even decked vessels, which probably hoisted sails, and 
voluntary or involuntary voyages frequently took place between Yucatan and the 
island of Cuba. Once established in the peninsula the Mayas long remained its 
peaceful rulers. In a region lying apart from the regular highway of migrations 
along the Pacific coast they had nothing to fear from invading hosts. At the time 
of its greatest expansion the Aztec empire was conterminous with Mayaland only 
at its south-east extremity, and the Nahuas had scarcely any knowledge of Yucatan, 
where the more cultured part of the nation was settled. 


The Mayas, properly so called, are of mean stature with robust bony frames, 
round head, delicate hands and feet, and great staying power. The branch of the 
Maya group dwelling in the Tabasco forests, and known as Ghontals, or " Savages," 
a name implying that they had remained aliens to the civilisation of their Yucatec 
kindred, are a remarkably frugal people. A few roots or bananas with a little 
maize suffice to maintain them for days together under the hardest work as porters 
or boatmen. Their costume is extremely simple, being limited to drawers and a 
shirt worn as a blouse. In Yucatan the dress of the men is the same as that of 
the Spaniards ; but the Maya women, more faithful to the national usages, have 
preserved the pre-Columbian fashions. The Mayas are a gentle, inoffensive 
people, and a market-day in a Yucatan town presents an almost unique spectacle 
in the quiet demeanour, courtesy, and mutual goodwill of buj'ers and sellers. 

Like all other cultured Indians, the Mayas call themselves Catholics, though 
mingling with their private worship certain rites which they have assuredly not 
learnt from the Spaniards. Thus, after burials, they mark with chalk the path 
leading from the grave to the house, so that when the time comes to enter the 
body of some new-born babe, the deceased may not mistake the way to his former 
dwelling. From this it is evident that, despite the teaching of the Church, the 
doctrine of metempsychosis still survives amongst them. They have also preserved 
the old lore regarding the healing art and the stars. Many astrologers still 
observe the conjunctions of the constellations, predicting from them the public and 
private events of life, the results of the harvests, and similar forecastings. Every 
village has its "cunning man," who reads the future in a quartz crystal globe. 
Before the disastrous war of 1847, nearly every village had also its Chilan- 
Balam Booh, that is, the " Interpreter of Oracles," and of this work at least 
sixteen copies are still known to exist. Amongst the natives are certain priests, 
either very complacent or else very ignorant of the orthodox rites, for they 
celebrate with the people the misa milpera, or " field Mass," at which a cock is 
sacrificed, the four cardinal points being first sprinkled with some fermented 
liquor, with invocations both to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and to the 
Pah ah tun, that is, the four patrons of the rain and the crops. These tutelar 
deities have, however, taken Christian names, the Red, or God of the East, having 
become St. Dominic ; the White, or God of the North, St. Gabriel ; the Black, 
or God of the "West, St. James ; and the " Yellow Goddess " of the South, Mary 

The Maya language, at once guttural and sonorous, and pleasant, especially in 
the mouth of the women, appears to be the purest member of the linguistic family 
whose various other branches — Tzendal, Lacandon, Quiche (Kachiquel) — are 
spoken between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific seaboard. These varioiis 
dialects, however, differ from each other merely in the admixture of foreign words 
and a certain variation in the pronunciation and in the final syllables. Pure Maya 
is at present spoken only in the north-east part of the country round about 
Valladolid and Tizimin. 

A striking proof of the persistence of the Maya genius is afforded by the 



geograpbical nomenclature of Yucatan, nearly all tlie native names having been 
preserved despite Spanish influences. The term Yucatan, which has prevailed 

Fig. 67. — Maya Tovths. 

over the Spanish Isla de Santa Maria de hs Eemedios, is itself of Maya origin, 
though its exact meaning is somewhat doubtful. It probably arose from a mis- 
understanding on the part of the Spanish navigators when enquiring after the 


name of the peninsula. According to Bishop Landa, apostle of the Mayas, the 
usual description was TJlumit Cuz el Etel Get, that is, " Turkey and Deer Land." 
Mayapan, the name of the ancient capital, was also frequently applied to the 
whole peninsula, and Maya, the name of the people, would appear to have 
previously been given to the country. This word, Ma-ay-ha, is said appropriately 
enough to mean " Waterless Land." 

As amongst the Aztecs, the fanatical conquistadores endeavoured to efface 
everything recalling the national religion. Manuscripts of priceless value were 
thrown to the flames, the idols and sculptures ruthlessly destroyed. Nevertheless, 
a few traditions have survived of pre-Columbian times, and by their aid the 
learned have endeavoured to reconstitute the political history of the Maya nation 
for the two or three hundred years preceding the conquest. The first legendary 
personages In Yucatan history, at once gods, heroes, and founders of empires, are 
Votan and Zamna, who were partly confused together in the popular imagination, 
and to whom were attributed all the national institutions, as well as all inventions 
made since the beginning of the world. After them came Cukulcan, another 
mythical ruler, identified by archaeologists with the Mexican Quetzalcoatl and 
with the Guatemalan Gucumatz, the " Feathered Serpent," whose history coincides, 
in fact, with that of this Aztec and Quiche domi-god. Hence there can scarcely 
be any doubt that the epoch personified by the Maya hero represents an interval 
during which the influence of the Northern Nahuas was dominant in the peninsula. 
Then followed other conquerors, apparently from the south, though their very 
name, Tutul Xiu, would seem to imply that they also were Nahuas. According 
to the national legend, they reigned as many as eleven centuries over Mayaland, 
and it was probably under their rule that were erected the remarkable monuments 
of Yucatan. Despite incessant wars and local revolutions involving the destruc- 
tion of many cities, this dynasty still held sway in a part of the territory at the 
time of the Spanish invasion. 

The first Spanish navigators had already been struck by the numerous monu- 
ments of Maya architecture, which were afterwards mentioned by all writers 
speaking of this region. But during the present century no attempt was made 
till after 1830 to systematically examine and describe these astonishing ruins. 
Uxmal was first visited and described by Zavala in 1835, and its remains were 
soon after studied and illustrated by Frederick von Waldeck. But public interest 
was first awakened by the traveller, Stephens, and the painter, Catherwood, who 
too'ether twice explored the land, and whose writings* may be regarded as the 
starting-point for the archaeological study of Yucatan. 

Since that time the ruined cities have been frequently visited, amongst others, 
by ]NL Charnay, whose work acquired exceptional value from the magnificent 
photographs, by which the accuracy of previous drawings could be judged. Over 
sixty groups of extensive ruins are alreadj' known ; but it is impossible to say 
how many more may still exist in the unexplored territory of the independent 

* Stephens, Incidents of Travel i» Yucatan ; Catherwood, Views of Ancient Monuments iti Central 



Mavas. Certain arch^ologists, proud of beiug amongst the first to draw attention 
to the splendid structures of Chiapas and Yucatan, did not fail to extol their 
magnificence, and even to compare them with the temples of Egypt and Greece. 
Such praise was certainly not justified, for the Maj'a buildings lack elegance 
of proportion, sobriety of ornamentation, nobility and perfection in their sculp- 
tures. Nevertheless, their vast size, massive character, and lavish wealth of 
carvings attest a civilisation far superior to that of many civilised peoples in the 
Old World. 

Most of the Yucatan structures stand either on natural eminences or on 
artificial terraces. They are usually found in the ■vicinity of cenotes, or even 
built over these underground reservoirs, which were at all times places held in 

Fig. 68. — Chief Rxjins of TrcATi^-. 

ScaJe 1 : 4,200,000. 

■ 60 Sliles. 

veneration by the surrounding populations. The monuments usually face the 
cardinal points, but not with astronomic accuracy, and the parts are rarely disposed 
in correct order, having apparentl}' been erected without any general plan. Some 
archaeologists have assigned a vast antiquity to these remains, attributing them to 
peoples who had already disappeared at the time of the conquest. But this 
opinion is no longer held, and is in fact refuted by tradition and internal evidence. 
According to the testimony both of the Spanish conquerors and of the national 
chronicles, the Mayas continued to use the temples for religious purposes down to 
the second half of the sixteenth centuiy. Nearly all the Yucatan buildings affect 
the pyramidal form, temples and palaces alike rising from a broad base through 
a series of receding steps to the crowning structure on the summit. Such 
structures were absent from some of the pyramids, which in that case were 


truncated, the free space on the upper terrace forming an altar open to the 
heavens, where the sacrificing priests celebrated their rites in the presence of the 
assembled multitudes. None of these massive piles were carried to any great 
elevations — so as, for instance, to overtop the large forest trees. The highest 
pyramids fell short of 100 feet; but in some instances the base covered a vast 
space, that of Zayi, near Uxmal, presenting a periphery of over 1,500 feet. 

According to VioUet le Due, one of the most remarkable architectural triumphs 
of the Maya builders was the employment of mortar to cement the layers of 
stone in a solid rock, modelling and carving the cement itself with figures and 
ornamental designs. Mortar, cement, plaster, stucco, all was made of sand and 
lime mixed in different proportions, but always hard as stone. Made with nearly 
pure hydraulic lime, it is so thoroughly adhesive both in the mass and when 
applied as a surface coating, that it can scarcely be chipped off by the hammer. 

In the Yucatan buildings and round about very little pottery and instruments 
have been found, although such objects are usually met in abundance in historic 
and prehistoric stations. Idols also have rarely been brought to light, doubtless 
because they were mostly hidden away by the natives after the arrival of the 
Spaniards, who destroyed all images they could lay their hands upon. But the 
walls are sometimes found completely covered with sculptures and figures in bas- 
relief. The type of such figures is the same as that of the present natives, 
especially the eastern Lacandons, except that it is highly exaggerated, especially 
in the temples of Palenque. Receding forehead and arched nose were regarded 
as marks of nobility, and siich features were naturally given to human or divine 
images held up to the veneration of the people. There is in any case reason to 
believe that in those times, as well as at present, the heads of the children 
were artificially deformed by the Maya women. Symbolic animals, especially the 
serpent, embellish the walls, on which are also seen ornaments in the form of 
elephants' trunks. From this it has been hastily concluded that the Maya sculptors 
were acquainted with that animal, and consequently that they had received their 
first lessons from masters of Asiatic origin. Some of the bas-reliefs represent 
social scenes ; but nowhere have been discovered warlike subjects, such as those 
covering the walls of the Assyrian palaces and Egj-ptian temples. Hence the 
Maya would appear to have been in the enjoyment of profound peace when the 
monuments of their great artistic epoch were erected. The almost total absence 
of fortifications round their cities and buildings also attests the tranquil condition 
of the land, and the peaceful character of its inhabitants. At present all these 
grey carvings intermingled on the crumbling waUs, such as those of Uxmal some 
350 feet long, seem to be merged in a chaos of indistinct forms. But they were 
formerly relieved by fresh colours — yellow, red, white, and black — sharply contrast- 
ing one with the other, and presenting a mj'stic or historic subject understood by all. 

The " calculiform " hierogl}'phics, so named from their contours, usually 
rounded like those of cakuli or pebbles, are all arranged in long lines like the 
written characters of a book, and undoubtedly served as the explauatoiy text of 
the associated carvings. These writings still remain undeciphered, but may 


possibly one day reveal the history of the people by whom the buildings were 
erected. At least they may explain the purposes of edifices which are at present 
designated under fantastic Spanish names. A clue may also thus be obtained to 
determine their date, at present a subject of interminable discussion amongst 
archaeologists. The same characters were also reproduced on textUes and on bark, 
and such manuscripts could be either rolled up or bound together in thin volumes. 
But hieroglyphic documents in the Maya language are extremely rare. Four 
only are preserved in European collections ; nor has their interpretation been yet 
facilitated by the discoverj^ of anj' bilingual inscription, such as the Rosetta stone 
and the Bisutun cuneiform tables, which served to unravel the mystery of the 
Egyptian hieroglj'phics and the Persian and Mesopotamian cuneiform writings. Yet 
the Spanish priests were acquainted with a Maya alphabet, and the manuscript 
possessed by one of these missionaries has even been recovered.* The only infor- 
mation still extant on the nature of the Yucatan writing system is contained in 
this work, which belonged to the fanatical bishop, Diego de Landa, who threw to 
the flames hundreds of manuscripts found in the temples. Landa's book explains 
only some sixty of several thousand signs, and as each sign may be replaced by 
others having the same meaning though differently formed, it is obvious that no 
translation is at present possible. 


Being separated fi-om the interior of Chiapas by a coast range running close to 
the shore, and crossed neither by great trade routes nor by railways, the groups of 
habitations situated on the Pacific seaboard naturally possess but slight commer- 
cial importance ; nor are there any good harbours on this coast to attract shipping. 
Nevertheless such is the fertility of the soil and the excellence of its produce that 
Soconusco has already acquired a high reputation in the foreign markets. 

Here the most frequented seaports are Tonala and San Benito, ov Soconusco, \>o\h 
accessible to vessels of light draught through dangerous passages which communi- 
cate with long coast lagoons. Although the nearest port to the capital of Chiapas, 
Tonala has a yearly trade of less than £40,000 ; in the neighbourhood are two hills 
scarcely surpassed in the whole world for their wealth of iron ores. San Benito, 
which exports the cacao of Soconusco, has nearly double the trade of Tonala, and 
it cannot fail to acquire a rapid development when the railway is opened to 
Tapachula, on the slopes of the Soconusco Mountains near the Guatemala frontier. 
Union Juarez, founded a few years ago close to the border at an altitude of 4,300 
feet, is the centre of the Chiapas coffee plantations ; Chiapa de las Indies, the ancient 
capital of the Chiapauec nation, which has given its name to the whole province, 
lies on the Atlantic slope in the valley of the Grijalva. Above the present town 
and its numerous ruins stands a bluff crowned with the remains of the Chiapa Nan- 
duime fortress, behind whose ramparts the Chiapanec warriors defied the attacks 
of the Aztec forces. Here also they long held out against the Spaniards and, 

* Daniel G. Brinton, The Books of OiiUm-Balam. 
VOL. xvn. M 


when reduced to the last extremity, the survivors, to the number of 2,000, threw 
themselves with their wives and children over the precipice. 

A few miles west of Chiapa, in a lateral valley of the Grijalva, lies the little 
town of Ta.ctla, which was for a few years made the capital of the state to punish 
the rebellious inhabitants of San Cristobal Las Casus, the present capital. This place 
stands on the site of the old Indian city of Ghoucl or Hite-Zucaflan. It has received 
its present designation of Las Casas in honour of the valiant defender of the Indians, 
Bartholomew de Las Casas, bishop of Chiapas. Beyond the Anahuac plateau San 
Cristobal is the highest city in Mexico, though the estimates of its altitude vary 
from 6,240 to 7,000 feet. 

San Juan Bautista, formerly Villa Uermosa, capital of Tabasco, is a small 
place occupying an opening in the extensive forest which covers the whole of the 
delta region. It is connected by a short railway with the Grijalva, and thus com- 
mands the magnificent system of navigable waterways ramifying over a district 
manv hundred square miles in extent, reaching from the delta to the neck of the 
Yucatan peninsula. Though at present destitute even of carriage roads, the capital 
is destined in the near future to become a converging-point for the railways running 
north, east and south towards Mexico, Yucatan and Guatemala. Its outlet on the 
Atlantic is the port of Frontcra {Guadalupe), on the right bank of the Grijalva. 

The Usumacinta, which joins the Grijalva above Frontera, has no towns in 
the part of its vast basin comprised within the Mexican States of Chiapas, Tabasco 
and Campeachy. Palenque, or the "Palisade," the best-known place in this 
region, is a mere village lying at an altitude of about 350 feet on one of the 
last slopes of the plateau limited by the alluvial plains of the Usumacinta. 
Palenque, founded during the second half of the sixteenth century under the 
patronage of Santo Domingo, soon acquired great importance as a centre of the 
transit trade and converging-point of the numerous tracks around the low-lying 
plains with their ramifying system of countless canals. Despite its isolated 
position in the midst of forests, it also became during the last century the chief 
station for caravans journeying between Guatemala and Campeachy. But the 
shifting of the trade routes has again consigned it to solitude. 

About ten miles south-west of Palenque lie the imposing ruins of a forest- 
grown city whose very name has perished, though supposed to have been either 
Nachan or Colhuacan, the " Serpent City." The inhabitants of Palenque were 
unaware of its existence till the middle of the last century, when the ruins were 
accidentally discovered in 1746. Their systematic exploration began in 1773, 
and since that time they have been frequently visited, described, and reproduced 
in drawings and photographs. But great ravages have been made by the damp 
climate, the rank vegetation, the fires kindled in the midst of the ruins to clear 
the ground for tillage, the eagerness of explorers to enrich public museums or 
their private collections, by ignorant travellers carrying off souvenirs of their 
visit, and even by the wanton love of destruction. The largest structure, known 
as the palacio, appears to have really been a "palace" of some kind, or the 
residence of a religious community, but certainly not a temple, for it is divided into 



a large number of chambers, passages, and apartments of all kinds. Like all the 
other monuments, it stands on a raised platform, which takes the usual shape of 
a truncated pyramid. One of the facades shows a row of pillars supporting a 
projecting architrave of a highly original design. The walls of this edifice are 
covered with sculptures, while in. another was found the famous "Greek cross," 
sj'mbol of the " tree of life," or of " fecundity," which has given rise to so much 
discussion amongst archaeologists. South-west of Palenque, about midway on the 
road to San Cristobal, capital of Chiapas, in an upland valley watered by a western 
affluent of the Usumacinta, are grouped the houses of Ococingo, whose name has 
also been assigned to an ancient city lying five miles farther east. By the Indians 

Fig. 69. — Etjins c> the Lacandon and Tzexbal Couxtetes. 

Scale I ; 2,S0U,000. 

X ■v.^iBartdteme '.• .. .' ,■ .^ •. -s-f 

Atne CJ0 

WesT oF C- 

'^^ ^^^%^^i^ymA-:4^M%x^i 

. GO Miles. 

this place is called Tonihi, that is, "Stone Houses," and the ruins are said, on 
jDure conjecture, to be those of Tulha, ancient capital of the southern Toltecs. 
Amongst them was discovered a plaster carving, whose perfectly Egyptian 
expression greatly surprised Stephens, Catherwood, and Brasseur de Bourbourg. 
It takes the form of a medallion with large wings spread out above the porch of 
a palace. In the whole district between Ococingo and Palenque the hills av.d 
mountains are crowned with' sepulchral mounds, and according to the inhabitants 
of the countr)^ other magnificent structures are hidden awaj' amongst the hills 
of Tumhala, and farther south in the direction of San Cristobal and Comitan. 

One of these unknown cities in the Lacaudon territory was lately discovered 
on the left bank of the Usumacinta, in a disti-ict which must have been frequently 


visited by the Guatemalan and Campeachy traders. But all reference to these 
ruins of Menche were of the vaguest character till the year 1868, when they 
were first distinctly mentioned by Suarez. Since then \he\ have been visited by 
Rockstroh in 1881, by Maudslay and Chai'nay in 1882, and the last-mentioned 
traveller gave them the name of Lorillard City, in honour of the American citizen 
who defrayed the expenses of his expedition. The ruined city stands on a head- 
land encircled by the river below its confluence with the Ococingo, and above 
the series of rapids extending all the way to Tenosiqtte. Some heaps of stones 
near the shore look like the butment of a broken bridge, but they are merely the 
remains of a sustaining wall at the base of the amphitheatre of houses and temples. 
To their very summit the escarpments are cut into flights of steps, or else faced 
with masonry, with large trees now growing through the cracks and fissures ; all 
the building materials exactly resemble those of Palenque. The largest temple, 
the facade of which is partly overgrown with interlaced branches and foliage, is 
disposed in three receding storeys, where traces are still preserved of the original 
stucco coating and paintings ; the topmost storey is arranged in little regular 
square niches, each of which was decorated with sculptures. One of the lintels 
represents two figures supporting " Latin crosses," and in the court is seen an 
idol sitting cross-legged, the hands resting on the knees, and the face crowned 
with an enormous headdress, which takes the form of a diadem of precious stones 
surmounted by huge feathers. This serene and dignified image, absolutely unique 
in the New World, recalls the buddhas of the extreme East. The bowls of coarse 
clay found close by contained a resinous substance, probably the incense which 
the Lacandons even recently still burnt in honour of the deity. 

The little town of Tenosiqite below the rapids, and at the entrance of the plains 
the village of Balancan, are the chief groups of habitations on the lower Usu- 
macinta. Carmen, the onlj' town in this part of the delta, lies on a strait through 
which the Terminos lagoon conimimicates with the sea. 

The picturesque city of Campeachy (Gampeche), with its irregular streets and 
houses shaded by cocoauut groves, is surrounded by ramparts and commanded by 
forts crowning the encircling hills. Campeachy is still one of the most beautiful 
cities in Mexico, but it has lost the relative importance it enjoyed duiing the 
days of commercial monopolies. During the Spanish rule it was one of the three 
privileged places on the east coast north of the isthmus of Darien — Vera Cruz and 
San Juan de Nicaragua being the other two — which were open to the trade with 
Spain, and, thanks to this advantage, it had developed extensive relations with 
the interior. At that time Campeachy was not only the emporium for the whole 
of Yucatan, but also served as the outlet for the produce of Tabasco, Chiapas, and 
aven Guatemala. Now, however, these regions have their own direct trade routes, 
and even Yucatan itself finds Carmen a more convenient outlet for Campeachy 
wood and other exports. If Campeachy possessed a real harbour, it would have 
at least attracted to itself a great part of the exchanges of the peninsula, but the 
roadstead with its shelving bed is exposed to the full fury of the dreaded nortes ; 
the pier projecting seawards does not reach suificient depths to be accessible at 



all times, so that vessels drawing thirteen or f oui'teen feet have to anchor at a 
distance of five miles from the port. Its trade is consequently limited to cocoa- 
nuts, some timber, sugar, hides, and salt. 

The scarcity of towns, villages, or even hamlets in the neighbourhood of the 
sea, as shown by the blank spaces on the map of Yucatan, is apt to cause surprise 
The sparse popidation on the coastlands is partly explained by the want of shelter 
on the seaboard, and the presence of insalubrious coast lagoons or marshes, but 
it is also due to the filibustering expeditions to which the people were exposed 

Fig. 70. — Meeid.4. axd Noeth-West Yucatan. 
Scale I ; 1,000,000. 

VVest or breenwic'n 




5 Fathoms 
and upwaids. 

. 24 JCles. 

during the last two centuries. The English corsairs, landing suddenly in some 
creek, often penetrated far into the interior, killing the men, carrying off the 
children, sacking and burning towns and villages. Although these raids have 
long ceased, no special industries have been developed, while the natural resources 
of the coastlands have not been sufiicient to attract immigrants from the interior. 
Hence ia this region the population is still mostly concentrated about Merida, 
where it was also most dense at the time of the conquest. Merida, capital of the 
State of Yucatan, and formerly of the whole peninsula, stands on the site of 
the ancient 2fd, or Ti-lioo, that is, "City" in a pre-eminent sense. Most of its 


monuments were pyramidal structures with their upper terrace crowned by 
temples or palaces. All have been destroyed, and the materials used in the 
modern buildings, which are consequently here and there embellished with 
ancient carvings embedded in the walls. In the outskirts alone are found the 
remains of pyramids, one of which, till recently occupied by a community of 
Franciscan friars, covers, with its cloisters and gardens, a surface of about five 
acres ; its picturesque ruins present .somewhat the aspect of a citadel. According 
to ancient Maya usage, some of the streets traversing the city are still indicated 
at either end by the sculptured image of the symbolic animals, such as the flamingo 
or hawk, to which the thoroughfare was dedicated. The white terraced houses 
with their Moorish courts resemble those of Andalusia, but those of the suburbs, 
surrounded by groves and gardens, are still constructed in the Maya style. They 
are little houses of stone, or. else of plaited " bamboo, raised a couple of feet above 
the street level, with a porch in front which is enclosed by walls on both sides 
and provided with a continuous bench all round. In the central part of the city 
is still seen the emblazoned palace built for himself by Montejo, founder of the 
new town, in 1542. 

Thanks to its trade in henequeu, or agave fibre, of which from 40,000 to 
60,000 tons are annually exported, Merida has become the converging-point of 
several lines which, when completed, will cover the whole peninsula with a net- 
work of railways. For the present, however, the capital is connected only by a 
road with its ancient port, the little town of Sisa!, at the north-west corner of 
Yucatan. From this seaport the henequen takes its English name of Sisal hemp, 
by which it is known in the trade. The price of this valuable fibre has increased 
sixfold since the middle of the present century. The roadstead of Sisal, being 
exposed to the dangerous north winds, was abandoned in 1871, when a new 
" marina " was founded on the coast due north of Merida, with which it is con- 
nected by a railway 22 miles long. The line is carried over the coast lagoon by 
a strong embankment. The new town, which replaces the old Indian village of 
Tuxuhi, has already justified its name of Procjirso, although the only advantage it 
enjoys over Sisal is its relative proximity to the capital. To shipping it is equally 
inaccessible, large vessels having to anchor in an open roadstead from three to six 
miles from the port. So dangerous is this roadstead that steamers and sailing 
vessels are always ready to weigh anchor and escape to the high sea ; towards noon 
every day communication with the shore becomes almost impossible, owing to the 
violence of the surf under the action of the fierce northern gales. 

Over 50 miles east of Merida, following the windings of the route, and on the 
verge of the more thickly-peopled districts, stands the ancient city of Izamal, 
so named from Itzmatul (Itzenmatul), "God of the Dew." But this old 
capital was already in ruins at the time of the conquest, and was regarded only 
as a holy city to which pilgrims flocked from all parts of the four highways 
radiating in the direction of the cardinal points. Twelve pyramidal or conic 
mounds, each crowned with a temple or palace, rose at that time above the city, 
but are now merely shapeless piles of refuse visible above the dense foliage of 


the surrounding gardens. Here M. Charnay discovered certain Avall-paintings, 
which afford a clue to the decorative system of the Mayas. As usually happens 
with most holy cities, Izamal has become a much -frequented market-place, priests 
and sacrifices being succeeded by traders and their wares. Between Izamal and 
Merida are seen the finest remains of the old causeways, which have been 
compared by the archaeologists to the Via Ajipia. These roads were partly 
destroyed by the Yucatecs themselves, to arrest the advance of the Sjjanish 
conquerors, and since then they have been utilised as quarries to supply materials 
for buildings, enclosures and other highwaj-s. Raised above the level of the 
plain, which was occasionally flooded, these causeways were slightly arched and 
provided with footpaths, and covered to a depth of about sixteen inches with 
a layer of cement, which has become as hard as the solid rock. According to 
Landa this cement was made of lime hardened with water in which the bark of 
some species of tree had been steeped ; but the present inhabitants have no know- 
ledge of the process. Ruins are numerous in the whole district. One of the 
most remarkable is the pyramid of Ake about midway between JMerida and 
Izamal. This pyramid is one of the oldest Yucatec structures, judging at least 
from the surrounding pillars, which are formed of huge rough-hewn blocks put 
together without any mortar, and presenting a somewhat cyclopeau aspect. 

Some twenty miles south of Merida is the site of Mfnjapait, " Eanner of the 
Mayas," which, as indicated by its name, was long a capital of the Maya nation. 
Some traces are still preserved of its temples, notably a cone-shaped pavilion over- 
grown with agave and other plants, and enclosed by a ruined rampart three 
miles in circuit. After the destruction of Maj-apan in the fifteenth century, the 
residence of the Maya sovereigns was removed farther south to Mani, which in its 
turn was destroyed by the Sjoaniards, and where ajjpear to have also perished the 
Yucatec manuscripts said to have been burnt by order of Bishop Landa. The 
most numerous Jfaya monuments occur south-east and south of Merida, along the 
little ridge of low limestone hills running south-east and north-west towards the 
angle of the peninsula. Uxmal, or " Olden Time," near the north-east extremity 
of this ridge and above some underground reservoirs, is the most famous site in 
this group, and the richest in remarkable structures. One of these, the so-called 
" Governor's Palace," is one of the best preserved of all the Maya palaces, and 
may be considered the type of many similar Yucatec monuments. It forms a 
long narrow quadrilateral with a double row of apartments, which are separated 
by corridors with walls inclining towards each other and covered by a horizontal 
roof. The upper storey is richly embellished \vith crescents, rhombs and other 
ornamental devices attesting a highly inventive faculty. One of the outer decora- 
tions has been taken by certain archasologists for an elephant's trunk. The 
"nunnery," a still larger edifice, is even more sumptuously decorated ; nowhere 
else in Yucatan can be seen a greater variety of motives executed with more 
success. Innumerable heaps of stones, mounds and pyramids reduced to the 
form of wooded knolls, are crowded round the vicinity of Uxraul, Ticul, Tekax, 
and along both slopes of the ridge which stretches south-easlwards to NoJqmt, 


Sacbe, Kabah, Sanacte, Labna and Zai/i. The ruins of the latter place are amongst 
the finest in Yucatan ; it is looked on as a haunted city of the dead by the natives, 
who rarely venture to approach it, declaring that at times a mysterious music 
is heard vibrating among the stones. The district stretching south of the limestone 
hills is strewn with ruins as far as the town of Iturbide, recently founded in the 
borderland between civilised Yucatan and the territory held by the independent 
wild tribes. 

In the eastern part of Yucatan the Spanish name of Valladolid has been 
given to the chief town, the ancient Zaci, or " White Clay." Zaci, which is not 
yet connected with Merida by rail, lies in the centre of a tolerably fertile district, 
which is so salubrious that consumptive persons resort to it from Campeachy 
and Merida. But, like so many other places in Yucatan, it is more interesting 
for the surrounding mines than for its modern structures, especially since the 
Maya revolt, when it was nearly depopulated and its cotton mills destroyed. 
Chichen-Itza, former residence of the Itza dynasty, lies twenty miles west of 
Valladolid ; it is now a mere village strewn with ruins which, during the wars 
of the conquest, were successively occupied by the Indians and Spaniards as strong- 
holds. The pyramid of Chichen-Itza, which is still in a good state of preservation, 
is approached by a monumental flight of steps lined with trees and terminating 
at the base in two colossal snakes with yawning jaws. 

In a building which he called the " gymnasium," Stephens discovered some 
paintings which he pronounced to be the most precious gems of native art to be 
found anywhere on the American continent. Unfortunatelj% the colours have 
been almost completely effaced by the weather and visitors. One of the subjects 
represented a large vessel with raised pi-ow and poop, tiller and rudder. At 
Chichen-Itza, Dr. Le Plongeon also discovered under a heap of rubbish 26 feet 
thick the finest statue of Nahua art now preserved in the Museimi of Mexico. It 
is the elEgy of Chac-Mool, the " Tiger King," reclining on his back and looking 
towards the right ; the features are quite regular and the head is adorned with 
fillets in the Egyptian fashion. The simple majesty of this statue stands in 
striking contrast to the figures, overcharged with barbaric ornaments, which are 
met in so many other temples of Mexico, Tabasco, and Chiapas. The reservoir 
from which Chichen-Itza takes its name, meaning " Mouth of the Springs," is a 
broad gloomy well about 500 feet in circuit, with circular ledges carried round the 
walls by means of projecting layers of masonry. In its deep green water, 65 feet 
below the rocky surface, are reflected the overhanging trees and festoons of 
pendent creepers. So recently as 1560, human victims were still cast alive into 
this well as sacrifices to the gods. 

Farther south follow El Meco and Cankun over against Mujeres Island ; 
Paalmul and Pamal on the shores of the strait separating Cozumel Island from 
the mainland ; lastly, Tuhim crowning a cliff stiU farther south. The last- 
mentioned appears to have been a powerful capital which was defended on the 
land side by a solid enclosure still in good repair. The towers flanking this 
rampart are also well preserved, and appear to be the same as those mentioned by 


the early navigators. The architecture of the Tuluin buildings presents some 
peculiar features, which seem to point at a mingling of cultures in this remote 
regioa of Mayaland. Some of the temples cause surprise by the Lilliputian 
dimensions ; pierced bj- a narrow opening scarcely wide enough for a single man 
to creep in, they would seem to have been made for a race of dwarfs. The part of 
the seaboard where Tulum is situated belongs at present to the free Indians, and 
in the same district stands a " holy rood," where they gather on solemn occasions 
to hear the " voice of God," which issues from the cross, appointing the chiefs, 
declaring peace or war, condemning or pardoning the guilty. A Catholic priest 
who had ventured to penetrate into the country was brought before this cross, 
which sentenced him to death. 

Mujeres, like all the other islands fringing the coast, has remained in pos- 
session of the Yucatecs. Its very name of " "Women's Island " recalls the 
special part played by it in the religion of the Mayas at a time when crowds 
flocked to its temple to worship the female deities of Yucatan. At present it is 
inhabited by a few hundred black and half-caste fishers, who trade directly with 

Cozumel, a much larger island lying farther south, some twelve miles off the 
coast, was also a much-frequented place of pilgrimage. It is the ancient 
Ahcuzamil, or " Swallow Island," whose temple contained the image of a god with 
swallow feet. Cozumel, which is densely wooded, has not yet been explored, 
although, the Spaniards had occupied it even before the conquest of Yucatan, and 
had built a church whose ruins are still to be seen. "When these ruins were 
rediscovered, with the altar and cross in the midst of the bush, it was supposed that 
they represented a Christian civilisation dating from pre-Columbian times. There 
still remain some traces of the paved highway, crossed by other routes, which 
traversed the island from north to south. 

The southern part of the coast between Tulum and Chetumal Bay is sparsely 
peopled by a few full-blood Indians, who have preserved their language, customs, 
and independence. The territory of these free Mayas is bounded on the north bj" 
the so-called " Southern Line," that is, the chain of fortified posts which extends 
nearly along 20^ north latitude through Pefo, Ixmul, and Tihosuco. Formerly they 
frequently crossed this "pale," and wasted the land as far as Yalladolid and 
Tekax, and were even reported to have hacked to pieces two thousand persons in 
the latter place with the manehette* At present the civilised Yucatecs are 
separated by a kind of march or borderland from their independent kindred, who 
no longer dare to cross over. 

These independent Mayas are usually called " barbarians," although scarcely 
less civilised than the others. They till the land in the same way, and keep their 
roads in good repair; they make their own manchettes, shaped like short scimitars, 
with iron imported from Belize, and procure their rifles from the same British 
settlement. Some of them being well-made stalwart men, they make good soldiers, 

• Manchette is tlie French-Creole form of the Spanish machete, a kind of hooked knife used in tropical 
America for clearing' the bush. 


going through their drill with great precision, and keeping their arms in perfect 
condition. Nobody can read or write, and the rites of the Catholic religion have 
been forgotten, although they build cabins to which thej' give the name of 
churches, and which serve as inns for wayfarers ; crosses are also set up at 
intervals along the highways. The cacique is at once king and high priest, and 
rules more by might than right, or until some other chief becomes strong enough 
to seize the supreme authority in his turn. Saiifa CrKz, which lies on the plains 
west of Asencion Bay, is their present capital, and this place was valiantlj' 
defended against the forces sent from Merida in 1871. Bacalar, or rather 
Bakhalal, the " Reed Palisade," on the swampy margin of a lagoon draining to 
Chetumal Bay, was a Spanish settlement foimded in 1544 under the name of 
Salamanca. Destroyed by the bucaneers in 1633, it was rebuilt and fortified in 
1730, and even recently still carried on a brisk trade with British Honduras ; but 
the Indian insurgents took it by surprise and massacred the whole population. 
The remains of some of the people are still seen piled up in the old church where 
they were slain. 

IV. — Economic axd Social Coxditiox of Mexico. 

The growth of the Mexican population has not been so rapid as that of most 
other American states. The normal rate of increase has been greatly retarded b}- 
the sanguinary war of independence, which lasted two years ; by military con- 
spiracies and local revolutions, fomented by personal ambitions, but reallj- due to 
class and racial hatreds ; by the misery of the peasantry deprived of their lands ; 
by the depredations of the wild tribes. Apaches and Comanches on the northern, 
Mayas on the southern frontiers ; lastly, by two foreign wars, one with the United 
States, the other with France. Nevertheless, the population of the Union has 
more than doubled since the beginning of the present century. In 1808, 
Humboldt, carefully sifting all the statistical reports furnished to the admi- 
nistration of New Spain, estimated the whole population at 5,837,000, or 
5,767,000 for the part of the territory constituting the present Mexican republic. 
In 1888, eighty years after Humboldt's estimate, the official census returned a 
population of 11,396,000, which, according to the rate of annual increase, may be 
certainly raised to 11,650,000 for 1891, this increase having been about 2 per cent, 
during the last decade. As regards the distribution of the population, Mexico 
differs from most other regions, the uplands being far more densely peopled than 
the lowlands. 

Immigration, which has acquired such great economic importance in the United 
States, in Canada and Argentina, has but a secondary influence on the growth of 
the Mexican population and the development of its resources. It is easy to under- 
stand why so few emigrants from the Old "World direct their steps towards Mexico. 
In this region the only unoccupied lands are the arid northern plains, till recently 
exposed to the raids of marauding wild tribes, and the forest regions of the south, 
largely under water and much dreaded by the white men for their climate. 
Neither in Chihuahua nor in Tabasco can the European working classes hope to 



succeed except under specially favourable circumstances. Even in the provinces 
where the soil is already appropriated, European settlers, expecting a relatively 
high rate of Tvages, could never attempt to compete with the pure or half-caste 
Indians who are satisfied with the lowest pay, and who, often crushed under the 
burden of their debts, have to work almost gratuitously as veritable serfs. The 
Mexican territory, already divided into great landed estates, lias scarcelj- any 
room for small holders, the very class which elsewhere supplies the bulk of the 
colonists. Hence, with rare exceptions, such as that of the French settlement in 
Jicaltepec, the various attempts, made either by the government or by private 
persons, to colonise the country by Italians or other foreign labourers have failed, 

Fig. 71. — Density of thb Popttlatiox ix Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 30.000,000. 

Inhabitants to the Square Mile. 

10 to 20. 

O Federal district, 780 to the square mile. 



20 to 40. 40 to 60 

and upwards. 

o Towns of over 50,000 inhabitants. 

. 620 ITiles. 

and the settlers have, after a time, all been dispersed, leaving the ground to the 
natives. In 1888 the twenty " colonies " in the republic had a collective popula- 
tion of only 6,319, and of these 1,-411 were Mexicans. Eecently an American 
company has been formed to introduce negro settlers into the southern provinces, 
while in another direction certain Chinese speculators propose to found colonies of 
their fellow-countrymen. But if agricultural interests fail to attract many immi- 
grants, foreigners are drawn to Mexico in yearly increasing numbers by the 
inducements of trade and the industries. The construction of railways, telegraphs, 
and factories of aU kinds has brought thousands of mechanics, engineers, and other 


artisans from North America. Italian craftsmen and petty dealers arrive in con- 
stantly increasing numbers, while the community of speech facilitates the settle- 
ment of Spaniards in the country discovered by their ancestors. At the end of 
1887 the number of Iberians entered on the consular registers exceeded 9,500 ; 
next to them the French and Italian settlers are the most numerous. 

As in other countries where the population is steadily increasing, agriculture 
and the industries have been developed at a still more rapid rate. Maize, which is 
the chief crop throughout the temperate zone, and even on the plateaux, is still 
the " corn," in a pre-eminent sense, for the Hispano-Mexicans, as it formerly was 
for the Aztecs ; with it is made the tortilla, or hot cake, in the preparation of 
which over a million of women are constantly employed. The annual crop is 
estimated at from £22,000,000 to £24,000,000, whereas wheat, grown by the side 
of maize in the cold zone, is valued at scarcely more than £4,000,000. Barlej' 
represents even a still smaller value, while rice is raised only on the lowlands, 
together with manioc on the Pacific and Atlantic slopes. 

The frijoles, or haricot beans, form part of the diet of most Mexicans, and are 
cultivated with peas, broad beans, and lentils to the extent of over £2,000,000 
annually. Potatoes are scarcely appreciated in their original home, and next to 
maize and haricots the most important article of food is the banana, a fruit of 
Asiatic origin. In the warmer parts of the temperate zone a clump of bananas 
with four or five stems yields from 620 to 720 fruits, twelve of which suffice to 
sustain a man for one day. Thus a space of about twenty square yards growing 
this plant produces enough food to support one person for a twelvemonth ; 
whereas, to obtain the same result with wheat, a space of at least 160 square yards 
would be needed. Besides the banana, Mexico produces an immense variety of 
other fruits, being suitable for the cultivation of almost every plant grown both in 
the tropical and temperate zones. The orange is here found associated with the 
cocoanut, the grape with the chirimoya, so that no fruit-markets can surpass those 
of the capital and the other cities of the plateau for the endless variety of their 

Wine is not the national drink, although the vine might yield excellent results 
in various parts of the country, and especially in Chihuahua and the other northern 
states from Zacatecas to the American frontier. Its cultivation, already valued at 
over 1,000,000 gallons in 1878, is even yearly increasing, but only to meet the 
demands of the wealthy classes. // The plant which yields the really national beve- 
rage is the maguey {agace americana), of which over thii-ty varieties are known 
to agriculturists. It is grown on the upper slopes of the temperate zone and in the 
cold regions, especially on the light sandy soils of the plateaux between 6,000 and 
8,000 feet above the sea. Between Tlaxcala, Pachuca, and the capital, the maguey 
fields cover many thousand square miles of land. The pulqucro obtains the 
maguey wine by removing the bloom at the moment of its greatest energy. Then 
the sap, which would have served to nourish the huge cluster of flowers, fills the 
deep cavity caused by the excision, and this cavity is emptied from two to nine 
times a day, according to the species and years, during the whole period of efflo- 



rescence. Certain plants have thus yielded dm-ing the season as much as 
2,000 or even 4,000 pounds of ag'iamkl, or sap, which may be drunk at once 
slightly diluted with water. But it is usually allowed to ferment, and thus 
changed to pulque, which may also be consumed on the spot, or forwarded while 
quite fresh to all the surroundiug markets. The trunk line between Orizaba and 
3Iexico, as well as the other railways on the plateau, have their daily pulque trains, 
each often convej-ing hundreds of tons of the liquor ia all directions. The term 
pulque is taken from the Araucanian language of Chili, and it has not yet been 

Fisr. 72.— PnauEKo. 



made clear why it has been substituted by the Spaniards for the proper Aztec 
name, ocf/i. In the Xahua traditions its discovery was attributed to a prince, who, 
as a reward, received the king's daughter in marriage. At first strangers find 
pulque somewhat disagreeable, owing to its smell of " high " meat or old cheese ; 
but, as a rule, they soon learn to relish this drink, the stomachic qualities of which 
are much praised by medical men. In its composition it resembles mare's milk, 
and of all fermented beverages peculiar to the Old "World it approaches nearest to 
the koumiss of the Kirghiz nomads. Taken in large quantities it intoxicates like 


wiue, and the drunkenness caused by it is said to be provocati\'e of wranglings and 
bickerings. Besides pulque, the agave, treated in different ways, j-ields various 
other drinks, sweet or acid, weak or strong, such as the mexcal or tequila, the 
" Mexican brandy " of English writers. 

Maguey, the planta de las maravillas of the Mexicans, yields other products 
besides pulque and mexcal. From it the ancient Aztecs obtained paper, as their 
descendants do soap, a species of gum, and especially various kinds of fibre used 
according to their quality for making brushes, cordage, yarns, and textiles. The 
smaller varieties of maguey known by the names of uili and lechuguilla {agave hete- 
racantha) contribute largely to the wealth of San Luis Potosi and Yalles, while the 
Zapotecs of Oaxaca export a variety of articles made from jnta fibre (bromelia 
silvestris). Hcnequen (jjgave sisalensis ov Siml honp) has done still more for the 
prosperity of Yucatan, and, thanks to this cactus, the most arid regions of the 
peninsula have become the most productive. The fibre of this plant serves to make 
cables, cordage, canvas ; which, though not so stout as that of hemp, is none the 
less in great demand throughout the industrial centres of ^^orth America. 

Two of the Mexican articles of export, cochineal and indigo, have ceased to 
possess any economic importance, the former having been ruined by the com- 
petition of the cochineal produced in the Canarj' Islands, the latter by the indigo 
grown in Bengal, and now also partly replaced by mineral dyes. Oaxaca, 
formerly the chief centre of the cochineal industry, and still exporting about 8,000 
cwt. in 1870, produced only a fiftieth part of that quantity in 1877, and the outlay 
had everywhere exceeded the returns. The nofial (cactus coccinifera), on which 
the insect fed, has accordingly been almost universally replaced by other economic 
plants, especially the coffee shrub. But there is another variety of cochineal 
which yields large profits, and the cultivation of which has already made some 
progress. This is the cije or axin {llaceia axin), that is, the " fat cochineal," very 
common in all the low-lying and temperate parts of south Mexico. The adult 
female of this insect, boiled in a metal vessel, yields about 27 per cent, of its 
weight in axine, a fattj' substance about the consistency of butter, and the most 
siccative oily product known to commerce. The Yucatecs formerly used it for 
painting their dwellings, and the North Americans have also begun to employ it. 
Every tree peopled by a colony of ajes easily yields 20 to 25 pounds of insects, or 
about 6 pounds of grease. 

Mexico also takes a certain limited share in the production of the great agri- 
cultural industries of the world. Cotton is grown chiefly in the northern provinces 
bordering on the United States, as well as in Guerrero and Yera Cruz. The 
sugar-cane, inti'oduced by Feruau Cortes, is cultivated in the southern states of 
Morelos, Puebla, Campeachy, and Yucatan, but almost exclusively for the local 
consumption ; cacao, which thrives well on the lower slopes of the Soconusco 
escarpments, and even in the interior of Chiapas, grows in a too thinly-peopled 
region to yield large annual crops. Coffee is of far more economic importance, 
especially as an item in the foreign trade of the country. In 1887 Oaxaca already 
possessed 3,000,000 shrubs ; the plantations in the temperate zone of Yera 



Cruz, under the isothermal lines of 62^ to 68" F., are also very extensive, though 
less appreciated than the coffee grown in the Uruapan district, Michoacau. The 
tobacco raised on the banks of the Papaloapan, about the slopes of the Tuxtla 
volcano, and on the spurs of the Tabascan hiUs, is scarcely inferior in aroma to 
that of Cuba itself. Since the insurrection of 1868 on that island, several of the 
banished planters have introduced this industry into Mexico. Vanilla also 
succeeds perfectly in the hot moist lands about the foot of the eastei'n Sierra 

Fig. 73.— ilArrr-ET Piaxtatiox3, Sas FBiscisauiTo Disteict, keae Mexico. 

Madre, and especially in the environs of Papantla, and at one time Mexico was 
the largest exporter of this fragrant pod. Xow, however, it is far outstripped by 
the little French colony of Reunion. 

Stock-breeding is one of the chief industries of ^Mexico. In some of the 
haciendas in the relatively arid northern provinces, as well as in the moist 
savannahs in certain parts of Vera Cruz and Tabasco, the whole population consists 



of vaqueros, or " cowboys," each lla^'iag in charge hundreds of homed cattle, or else 
from eight to ten atajos, or over 200 horses. These herdsmen, emploj'ed on farms 
of 10,000, 20,000, or even 30,000 cattle, are, for the most part, Indians or half- 
castes differing greatly from other Mexicans. They are a half-savage race of 
" centaurs," who capture the untamed horse or overturn the strongest bull with a 
throw of the lasso, and whose loves, combats, and heroic adventures are a favourite 
subject with romance writers. But generations flow on and industries change. 
Formerly the ox and the horse roamed the prairie Uke the aurochs or bison, and the 
cowboys were rather hunters than keepers. After capturing and branding the 

Fig. 74. — Chtef AoEicniTUEAL Peoduce in Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 30,000,000. 

r-Cane. Coffee. 


Maguey, Cactus. Cochineal. Vine. 

Cacan . 


Maize, Cereals. 



- 620MUes. 

Forests. Lands little cultivated. 

animal with its owner's initials, they again released it till it had to be recaptured 
for the shambles, or to be transferred to the dealer. Even the breed of ponies 
known as mustangs or hdinos had reverted to the wild state, living in the bush far 
from running waters, and in summer, when all the meres were dry, slaking their 
thirst by chewing the thornless cactus. But at present many farmers have intro- 
duced a more orderly system of stock-breeding, developing new breeds by 
crossings with European, American, and even Asiatic animals. Thus the Indian 
zebu and the carabao, or buffalo of the Philippine Islands, have been introduced 
with good results in the Mexican cattle-farms. The Andalusian horses brought 


over by the conquerors, and endowed with the qualities of mettle, strength, and 
endurance, have also been crossed with other breeds, and a more varied choice is 
thus daily offered to the gallant 2tlexican cavaliers, who are so proud of their 
horsemanship, their gay trappings and richly-embi'oidered, gold-fringed costumes. 

Smaller animals, such as sheep and goats, find less favour with the stock- 
breeders, though numerous herds of swine are reared in the forests and on the 
plains, especially in the States of Mexico and Jalisco. 

When the Spaniards arrived in the country with their traditional theories of 
property, they were unable to understand the communal system prevalent among 
the natives. Montezuma himself they looked upon as a sort of ruler like their 
own sovereign, and they concluded that the great personages of the empire were 
feudatory vassals in the possession of vast domains. Hence they supposed that 
they had only to substitute themselves for those Mexican lords, and Fernan 
Cortes set the example by seizing vast territories such as the Cuernavaca district 
and the " Oaxaca valley," with the populations inhabiting them, ifvearly the 
whole country was thus distributed amongst the conquerors, and the natives, 
hitherto unaware that the land-could be appropriated, became themselves so much 
property, like the soil itself. Still a small plot was usually left for their use 
within a radius of a few hundred yards round about the parish church. 

Although the Spaniards were driven out by the war of independence, the 
system of large domains introduced by them remained intact. The haciendas 
are not so much farms as territorial divisions as extensive as a rural parish or even 
a shire. As a unit of square measure the hacienda has a superficial area of 35 
square miles, but some of the northern haciendas are a hundredfold this size, 
covering a surface equal to one of the large departments of France. The whole 
land between Saltillo and Zacatecas, a distance of over ISO miles, belongs to three 
owners. These owners are naturally unable to cultivate more than a relatively 
small part of such estates, in the heart of which they erect a fortified dwelling, 
and aroimd this stronghold, serving as a sort of citadel during the civil wars, are 
grouped the houses of their clients and retainers. AU highways converge on the 
seignorial mansion ; in the neighbourhood are held the marlcets, and all travellers 
must call on its master either to demand hospitality or procure fresh mounts and 
supplies. The vast enclosures in the vicinity are carefully guarded refuges, where 
the herds are driven to escape the raids of marauding Indians or predatoiy ani- 
mals. But while a solitude reigns round these isolated centres of life and industry, 
the great hacendados left the country open to incursions, and it was owing to this 
baneful system that tiU recently the Apaches and Comanches were able to extend 
their daring plundering expeditions far into the interior of the republic. As was 
remarked nearly a century ago by Humboldt — " Mexico is a land of inequality ; 
nowhere else does there prevail a more frightful inequality in the distribution of 
wealth." About the middle of the century the official surveys returned over 13,000 
ranchos, or small holdings, with one " cabin " as a centre of habitation. But even 
were they the indisputable property of the free peasantry', all these ranchos 
constituted a scarcely perceptible portion of the national wealth. Since that 

VOL. xvn. N 



Fig 75. — The Worlii's Yield of Silteb. 

time vast ^racts have been surveyed and either sold or rented. But one-third of 
these national lands has been gratuitously given to speculating land companies, 
while a large part of the rest has been assigned to other financial societies or 
to private persons in lots of 6,250 acres ; a single company thus owns no less 
than 15,000,000 acres, while very little has been assigned to the peasantry. 

The bulk of the Mexican population is dependent on the great mining or land 
companies. Of the two classes the miners are by far the more indejjendent, owing 
to the neighbourhood of the towns that have sprung up round about the works. 
The peasants, poorly paid and kept by the very force of circumstances in the 
power of the territorial lords, differ in name only from real serfs. Destitute of 

the necessary resources, they are 
unable to borrow except from the 
proprietor or his steward, and 
these loans, consisting of pro- 
duce or merchandise sold at ex- 
orbitant rates, can be paid back 
only by manual labour, contracted 
for j'ears in advance. From year 
to year they see the prospect of 
freedom fading away, and their 
crushing liabilities are transmitted 
from father to son. Doubtless all 
Mexicans are free "by Act of 
Parliament ; " no landowner has 
any longer the right to reduce a 
debtor to servitude, or sell him to 
another owner, in discharge of 
all or part of any real or fictitious 
claim. The son is no longer even 
liable for his father's debts, nor 
the future of minors be 



Other Countries. 


pledged for advances beforehand. 
But in many districts remote from the capital, and especially in the south-eastern 
provinces, the law is a dead letter, and the natives are even said to have been 
secretly sold to Cuban planters. Practically servitude still exists, as during the 
early days of the conquest, for it is the natural consequence of the landed system. 
To be enslaved, to die a slave, in a land so fair, is the burden of every song round 
the villages of Tabasco. The traveller, passing through the countrj', cannot fail to 
be impressed by the plaintive tone of these songs, which float continually on the 
air in the neighbourhood of all human habitations. 

At the beginning of the century the chief wealth of Mexico, apart from maize, 
maguey and the other alimentaiy produce of primary necessity, consisted in the 
precious metals ; the export trade was in fact confined almost exclusively to the 
products of the mines. These products represented an enormous value, without 



even taking into account the vast sums which were smuggled out of the country, 
and of which no returns could be made. There are numerous auriferous deposits 
ia ilexico, but her chief treasures are the silver mines, which since the discovery 
of America have yielded fabulous sums to the trade of the world. According to 
the researches of Humboldt, the total value of the gold and silver furnished by the 
metalliferous veins of Xew Spain amounted to £425,000,000 from the conquest to 
the year 1S03. This figure is regarded as somewhat too high by Soetbeer, Del ilar, 
Neumann, and other economists, who, however, estimate the value down to the 
year 1890 at no less than £800,000,000, or over one-fifth of the total production 
of the world dui'ing the four centuries since the first voyage of Columbus. 

In 1850, before mining oper- 
ations had besun in California, "^S- 76.— The 'W'oeld's Tielb of the Peecious Metais. 
Arizona and Xew ilexico, regions 
formerly belongiug to Xew Spain, 
the proportion yielded by Mexico 
since the conquest had been much 
higher, or about one- third. This 
country has contributed more 
than any other to the spread of 
a metal currency as representative 
of value ; yet till recently cacao 
beans, squares of soap, and simi- 
lar objects of daily iise were em- 
ployed in Mexico itself for petty 
dealings. The yield of the Mexi- 
can mines, so far from falling off 
during the present century, has 
considerably increased, despite 
wars and revolutions, and flooded 
mines. The improvement in 
the highways of communication, 
combined with the introduction 

of better mining processes, has more than compensated for the advantages enjoyed 
by Mexico at a time when the precious metals possessed a greater relative value 
than at present. An oscillation in international trade favourable to the develop- 
ment of the mining industries would have the result of increasing to an enormous 
extent the production of silver in itexico, where there are thousands of well- 
known deposits still untouched owing to their relative poverty, or to the lack of 
communications. Even the slag heaped up about the workshops stiU contains 
from 25 to 30 per cent, of metal, or altogether £240,000,000. In the year 1889 
alone, as many as 2,077 declarations were registered respecting new mines. At 
present the yearly production exceeds two tons of gold, valued at £-300,000, and 
600 tons of silver, valued at £5,500,000, and in 1889 the total yield exceeded 



Other Countries. 



So extensive is the area of the Mexican mineral region that it may be estimated 
at four-fifths of the whole territory. The chief metalliferous zone is that of the 
western Sierra Madre from the Arizona frontier to the isthmus of Tehuantepec ; 
but the other Sierra Madre is also very rich, especially in the States of San Luis 
Potosi and Hidalgo. Besides gold and silver the Mexican highlands contain 
deposits of platinum, copper, lead, iron, manganese, and quicksilver, the last of 

Fig. "7. — Yield of Gold and Sllvee ln Vaeious Countries since 1492. 


Mexico: £848.000,000. 

Bolivia and Peru : £820,000,000. 

Uaitea states : £400,000,01)0. Best of America : £500,000,000. 


£ (580,000,000. 


Australia: £300,000,000. 

Each square represents £400,000. 

great value in the reduction of the ores. Coal has been found in Sonora, on the 
banks of the Rio Grande, in the Sierra de Tamaulipas and in the southern 
uplands. Sulphur is obtained in the craters both of the active and quiescent 
volcanoes ; near Tuxpan are found petroleum springs ; by scratching the surface 
the sulphates and carbonates of soda, saltpetre, sea salt are turned up ; lastly, there 
occur quarries of marble, onyx, jasper, basalt, obsidian, while certain rocks abound 
in precious stones. 



The early explorers often speak of the beautiful chalchihuites, jadeites or 
emeralds, with which the ilexican nobles adorned themselres and decorated their 
idols. Amongst the resources of ilexico must also be included yellow amber, 
common in Oaxaca and the neighbouring states, but of an imknown vegetable 
origin. It is perfectly transparent, of a lovely golden hue, and, seen iu the light, 
shines with a fluorescent glow. In certain parts of the interior it is found in such 
quantities that the natives use it even for kindling their fires. The specimens of 
this substance sent to Europe come from the coast, where it occurs here and there 
in the sands. In ilexico there are reckoned altogether about a hundred impor- 
tant mineral districts, and in 1888 there were as manv as 575 mines at work, to a 

Kg. 78. — Chief Meteeai. Regioss of Mmco. 
Scale 1 : 30,000,000. 

Coal. Salt. 

, 620 Maes. 

great extent owned by English capitaKsts. The total yield of all metals, earths, 
stones, and combustibles is valued at nearly £10,000,000 yearly. 

To mining, which was alread}- represented in all its branches, such as smelting 
and minting, under the Spanish rule, have now been added some of the large 
manufacturing industries. Cotton, one of the chief crops in the republic, is 
entirely emploved in the ilexican spinning and weaving mills, and manufacturers, 
moreover, import large quantities of the American staple. Over 50,000 families are 
supported by the cotton industry, and about a hundred factories produce a quantity 
estimated at 30,000,000 pounds a year. The States of Puebla, Jlexico, Queretaro, 
Guanajuato, Jalisco and Coahuila are the chief producers of cotton textiles, which 
take the form of manias, sarapes, rehozos, and other articles forming part of the 


national costume. The artisans of the plateau are also skilled in all the crafts 
connected with saddlery, leather-dressing, embroidery and other trimmiags so 
highly appreciated by the Mexican cavaliers. The complete outfit of a regular 
dandy is worth some hundred pounds, including the trappings of his mount. All 
the large European industries, even those requiring a deep knowledge of scientific 
processes, have now been introduced, and are contributing to transform the 
economic conditions of the countr}\ Moreover, a large number of the small local 
industries still hold their ground. Thus the Indians of Michoacan continue to 
produce those articles of featherwork which the conquerors admired in Monte- 
zuma's palaces, and the Mixtec women still weave, with the cocoons of a native 
species of bombj'x, certain silken stuffs, coarse to the touch but very stout, and 
highly prized by the natives. 

In most of the provinces the ceramic art has undergone but slight change 
since pre-Columbian times. The Indians, as a rule, are excellent craftsmen, as 
patient, methodical, and regular in their operations as the machines which they 
employ. Nor do they lack the necessary initiative where it is needed by the 
character of the work. Thej' display remarkable talent in designing and modelling, 
they copy without difficulty all objects presented to them, and knead wax with 
rare skill. In them survives the genius of their forefathers, who sculptured the 
facades of the temples, carved hieroglyphic inscriptions, designed and painted 
topographic charts. 

This general increase of culture, shown by a more scientific and a more active 
utilisation of the local resources, has at the same time reacted favourably on the 
development of foreign commercial relations. At the beginning of the century 
under the Spanish regime, the annual movement of the exchanges carried on 
exclusively through Vera Cruz was about £8,000,000. At present it has in- 
creased more than threefold, while the precious metals, which till recently formed 
seven-eighths of the exports, have now fallen to two-thirds or even one-half. 
Amongst the more important exports are dj'ewoods, timber, skins and hides, 
besides such colonial produce as coffee, vanilla, tobacco, caoutchouc, sugar and 
indio-o. Mexico also forwards large quantities of fruits to the United States, but 
no manufactured goods are exported. These industries have not yet acquired 
sufficient development, nor are they sufficiently specialised to find an opening in 
foreign markets, ^f imported goods the chief are, in their order of importance, 
textiles, machinery, hardware, paper, chemicals, glass and china ware, besides flour 
and other alimentary substances. Thanks to the proximity of the United States 
and the connecting lines of railway, the first place in the foreign trade of the 
country is taken by the northern republic : hence, in the Mexican ports nearly all 
shipping documents are drawn up in the English language. Great Britain comes 
next in importance to the United States, France occupying the third jjlace. These 
three countries, which collectively possess nine-tenths of all the exchanges, are 
followed by Germany, whose relations are increasing, especially along the Pacific 
coast ; whilst Spain, which formerly monopolised the whole trade of the colony, 
now takes only the fifth place. 


Like the United States, Mexico has endeavoured to foster her industries by a 
system of tariffs affecting most objects imported from abroad. As a rule the duties 
levied at the seaports or on the land frontiers amoimt to 38 per cent, of the 
declared value. Hence the contraband trade, especially in American cotton 
fabrics, continues to flourish all along the line, but principally in the " free zone," 
where 850 custom-house officers, distribut-ed over a distance of 1,680 miles, are 
supposed to keep effective guard over all the exchanges. Some articles, regarded 
as useful for the industrial or scientific development of the land, enter free of dutv. 
In 18S9 onlv eightv ports vrere open to foreign trade, exclusive of the " land 
ports " on the northern and southern frontiers. In 1889 the Mexican seaports 
were regularly visited by twelve lines of steamers, six in direct relation with 
Europe, the TTest Indies, and the Eastern States of the northern republic, two 
with California, and four engaged on the coast service. The sea-borne traffic by 
steam represents nearly one-half of all the exchanges, although sailing-vessels, 
mostlv flying the national flag, are four times more numerous than steamers in. the 
movement of the seaports. The coasting-trade is reserved exclusively to Mexican 

Mexico has lagged a quarter of a century behind the civilised countries of 
West Europe in railway building. The first line, connecting Vera Cruz with a 
suburb, was not opened tiU 1850. Another line, constructed in 1857 between the 
capital and the shrine of Guadalupe, was rather an object of curiosity for pleasure- 
seekers or devotees than a means of communication subservient to commercial 
interests. But after the collapse of the attempt made to restore the monarchy and 
the definite recognition of Mexican independence, a beginning was made with the 
various projects that had been long worked out for the development of a regular 
railway system between the large centres of population. Thanks to the aid of 
British, and to a less extent of United States capital, the work was undertaken and 
pushed on so rapidly, soldiers being even employed as na-\-vies, that in the course 
of a few years Mexico already compared favourably with several European countries 
in the relative extent of her railway system. A great obstacle to the progress of 
the new means of communication was the Kne between Vera Cruz and the capital, 
which was the first taken in hand, and which happened to be the most difficult of all. 
But before any expansion could be given to the system it was considered essential 
to open the great trade route, placing the capital of the republic in direct relation 
with the ports of the United States, Great Britain, France, the "West Indies, and 
South America. To accomplish this result enormous works had to be executed, 
works unexampled even in Europe. Mountains had to be scaled to double the 
height of the highest Alpine tunnels, the three hot, temperate, and cold zones had 
to be successively traversed in a vertical direction, in order to reach the region of 
snows without extending the route beyond all reason along the interminable slopes 
of the lateral valleys. This colossal work has been successfully executed, and the 
Vera Cruz line to the capital now offers an amazing series of stupendous bridges, 
A-iaducts, tunnels, sharp curves, steep gradients, and other engineering triumphs. 

The Metlac viaduct between Cordoba and Orizaba is a model of constructive 



skill, in whicli lightness and strength are happily combined. But the section 
between Maltrata and Boca del Monte, giving direct access to the edge of the 
Anahuac plateau, is so precipitous that it never fails to excite the apprehension of 
travellers, both ascending and descending this tremendous incline, which has a total 
rise of no less than 4,000 feet in a distance of sixteen miles in a bee line. At the 
hio-hest pass near the Malinche volcano the line stands at an altitude of 8,420 feet 
above sea-level, and to avoid a still more elevated pass over the snowy range, it is 
deflected northwards, thus obliquely traversing the Mexican valley in its entire 

Fig. 79. — The Boca del Monte Accent. 
Scale 1 : 90,000. 







. . ....,j 


West Qp breenwich 


;,300 Yards. 

length. "With good reason the Mexicans speak of this great engineering work as 
a monument of human genius. 

To connect the network with that of the United States was a far easier under- 
taking. The Anahuac plateau has a general incline from south to north without 
any abrupt declivities, so that throughout most of the section between the capital 
and the Rio Grande del Norte heavy engineering operations could be dispensed- 
with. In 1884, two years after the Americans themselves had reached this river 
at Laredo, the Mexicans opened their line to Nuevo Laredo on the opposite bank. 
The same year they completed another line running parallel with the western 
Sierra Madre all the way to Paso del Norte. Railway communication was 
thus henceforth continuous between Mexico and San Francisco, St. Louis and 
New York : by the latter route passengers were able, in 1889, to travel from 



Mexico In eleven clays to the Paris Exhibition. Another line crosses tlie Rio 
Grande at Piedras Xegras between El Paso and Laredo, and a fourth traversing 
Sonora connects the American frontier with the port of Guaymas. But aU 
these railways, which give Xorth Americans and their wares easy access to 
Central Mexico, and which converge towards the heart of the country, constitute 
a serious political danger. They lay open the frontier to a powerful neighbour, 
who has already occupied about half of the former territory, and who has more 
than once threatened to extend the range of her conquests. Hence it becomes all 
the more urgent to increase the lines which descend from the uplands to the sea- 
board, and which would afford equal commercial advantages to all countries without 
an}- special privilege to the United States. To the Vera Cruz line on the Atlantic 

Fig. 80. — Mexicax Ratlwat Systfvs rs 1890. 
Scale 1 ; ao.OOO.COO. 

7/est oP Ureenw;ch 

' 620 Miles. 

side has already been attached the San Luis Potosi — Tampico line ; but on the 
Pacific side, where trade is less developed than on the slopes facing towards Europe, 
the system is not yet completed which wiU ultimately extend to the seaports of 
Altata, ilazatlan, San Bias, Manzanillo, Sihuantanejo, Acapulco, Huatulco, and 
Salina Cruz. On this Pacific side the engineering difficulties are as great as on the 
Atlantic slope. Thus the line which runs west of the capital across the Ajusco 
crests to the heights of Las Cruces near Salazar, attains an extreme altitude of 
lOjOOO feet, or about 2,600 feet above the city of Mexico ; this is the highest 
point yet reached by the Mexican system. 

In 1774, the engineer Cramer, commissioned to survey the isthmus, reported 
that a navigable canal might be cut from ocean to ocean without much difficulty and 
expense, and in his report he traced the course of such a canal. But uo attempt 


was ever made to realise the pi'oject. In 1811 the Spanish Cortes also decreed 
the opening of this line, but their decision could, be regarded as little more than an 
abstract resolution inspired through the fear of losing the empire of the West. Immc 
diatel}- after the constitution of IVew Spain as an independent state, the geographical 
study of the land was resumed ; but no definite canalising projects were formed 
till 1842, when Jose de Garay offered to take such a work in hand. But he failed 
to raise the necessary capital, and a like fate befell the American company which 
had obtained the concession, in 1867, after the fall of Maximilian. All these now- 
abandoned projects of an interoceanic canal have been followed by that of a ship 
railway on the same plan as that of the Chignecto isthmus in Nova Scotia, but of 
far greater proportions. The importance of such a route, especially for the navi- 
gation of the United States, is obvious enough. For the trade of the whole world 
the best line across Central America would, doubtless, be that of Panama, which 
lies on the direct highwaj' from England to Peru, ChiH, Australasia, and Indo- 
nesia. But the Americans are naturally most interested in the route lying nearest 
to their own territory. Most of their traffic is carried on between New York and 
San Francisco, on which highway the Tehuantepec route is 860 and 1,630 miles 
shorter than those of Nicaragua and. Panama respectively. Planned by Eads, the 
same American engineer who opened the South Pass in the Mississippi delta, 
the Tehuantepec ship railway would be regarded mainly as an American work, 
and the future tariff was even arranged in such a way as to favour the Anaerican 
quite as much as the Mexican seaports. Mexico was, none the less, ready to grant 
great privileges to the promoters, such as exemption from taxes for ninety-nine 
years, and the grant of nearly 1,250,000 acres of land. The expenditure was esti- 
mated at £15,000,000 for a line 150 miles long, the heaviest engineering work 
being a cutting 850 yards long and over 100 deep at the highest point of the 
waterparting. This would reduce the steepest gradient to less than two in 100 
yards ; but the undertaking was suspended by the death of the engineer. 

The Mexican telegraph system has been rapidly developed throughout every 
province of the republic, having increased threefold during the last decade. It 
is now also completed by the submarine cables connecting Galveston with the 
Mexican seaboard, and Vera Cruz with the northern and southern ports. Another 
submarine line now also joins Salina Cruz, the port of Tehuantepec, with the 
Pacific seaports of the Central American republics. Most of the lines belong to 
the federal government, though several are also owned by the different states, railway 
companies and private corporations. The telegraph and postal services increased 
more than fourfold in the eight years ending in 1888 ; yet the letters forwarded 
are still at the low rate of three per head of the population, showing that, com- 
pared with the countries of West Europe, instruction has hitherto been in a back- 
ward state. 

But education also is at last making rapid progress. Most of the states have 
adopted the principle of compulsion and gratuitous public instruction for all chil- 
dren ; but the oflScial returns make it evident that pubHc opinion has not yet 
completely sanctioned such measures. At the same time it is impossible to ascer- 


tain tte precise number of ctildren attending schools, owing to the carelessness of 
provincial governors in forwarding the yearly reports to the federal administration. 
It is certain, however, that from decade to decade great progress is being made, 
and the attendance at schools already represents a twentieth of the whole popu- 
lation, the proportion beiug highest in the States of Queretaro, Guanajuato, 
and Chiapas. But much still remains to be done in the remote districts, and 
especially for the Indian populations. Ignorance and superstition are still so 
prevalent amongst the natives that so recently as 1874, two " sorcerers," a mother 
and her son, were burnt alive ia a village in the State of Vera Cruz for having 
caused the death of a young man by incantations. On the other hand brigandage 
has rapidly disappeared with the development of the railway and telegraph ser- 
vices, and most of the highwaymen have taken to more legitimate pursuits. The 
time has passed when travellers were warned by placards posted at the cross- 
roads of the capital to provide themselves with money under the threat of being 
beaten, or losing nose or ears. 

A taste for reading is not yet very widespread ; hence libraries are few and 
poorly equipped, although scientific literature has already acquired a certain 
value. It comprises some standard works on a level with the admirable carto- 
graphic undertaking, superior to similar works in the United States, which when 
finished will contain the whole topography of Mexico in thousands of well-executed 
sheets. Popular literature consists mainly in journals, of which at the end of 1888 
as many as 120 were issued in the federal district alone, and 385 in the whole 
state. In 1852, all publications taken together comprised only 60 journals, 
ilexico is one of the Hispano-American countries which claim to speak the best 


Constituted on the model of the Anglo-Saxon federation, the republic of 
ifexico consists of a certain number of independent or sovereign federal states 
united together according to the compact of 1 857. Each state is, so to say, a 
miniature of the confederation, with its chambers and governor, its laws and local 
finance. But its deliberations and jurisdiction are confined within certain limits 
laid down by the general constitution of the republic. It can neither declare war 
nor conclude peace, and all its relations with foreign powers have to be conducted 
by the central government. 

But independently of all constitutional formidas, there can be no dcubt that 
at present the populations of the various states, formerly without cohesion or any 
sense of national unity, now form a somewhat compact political body. In 1846, 
during the war with the United States, no popular movement was made against 
the invaders, and the two States of Tera Cruz and Zacatecas even refused, in 
virtue of their autonomous rights, to take any part in the war against the Xorth 
American republic. But the national sentiment assumed a far more active cha- 
racter at the time of the French invasion and the assumption of the imperial title 
by ilaximilian. T^Tien Mexico at last issued triumphant fi'om this formidable 



struggle, the exultation of victory and the consciousness of nascent strength tended 
to create a Mexican nation in the true sense of the term. From that time dates 
the real history of modern Mexico. 

The annexation of Mexico to its powerful northern neighbour, an event confi- 
dently foretold by so many politicians as inevitable, becomes daily more improbable as 
the country continues to increase in wealth and population. The centres of gravity 
of the Mexican and Anglo-Saxon republics will always be separated by a distance 
of at least 1,500 or 1,600 miles, and the intervening space largely consists of arid 
regions, where the population must always remain scattered. The zone of dis- 
affected states, which American adventurers had endeavoured to constitute in the 
north between Sonora and Tamaulipas, with the view of dividing the republic and 

Fig. 81.— Political Division's op Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 30,000,000. 

, 620 Miles. 

annexing it piecemeal, have resumed their place as integral members of the 
political organism. Thus Mexico and the United States seem destined to remain 
distiact ethnological domains. 

Every Mexican citizen is regarded as a freeman, with the right of choosing 
his own domicile, of associating with whomsoever he Hsteth, of comiug and going 
whithersoever he pleaseth, of beariag arms and freely expressing his thoughts 
either verbally or through the press. No titles of nobility or hereditary preroga- 
tives are recognised, and all citizens are considered, in virtue of the constitution, 
as equal before the law. All are electors on the single condition of themselves 
signing their voting-papers. Even foreigners become citizens on acquiring pro- 
perty in the country, or when children are born to them, unless within a period 
of eight months they express a formal desire to keep their first nationality. 


The number of parliamentary representatives increases with the population ; 
for this purpose each state is divided into as many electoral circles as there are 
40,000 inhabitants, and each circle elects a representative from candidates over 
twenty-five years old for a period of two years. The senators, who must be at 
least thirty, are elected for four years, two for each state, so that they number 
fifty-sis for the twenty-seven states and two territories ; every two years half of 
the senate is re-elected. The Congress, that is to say, the two chambers combined, 
holds two regular annual sessions, comprising a total of at least forty-five sittings; 
both deputies and senators receive a yearly allowance for their services. A 
permanent delegation of the Congress sits during the recesses. The capital, 
where Cong-ress meets, lies not in anv of the states, but in a neutral territorv, the 
so-called "federal district," formed by a circuit of "two leagues," or six miles' 
radius round the central spot. The president of the Mexican United States, 
chosen in the second degree by pepular vot«, was, till recently, appointed for a 
term of four years, but in virtue of an amendment in the constitution passed in 
1887, he may be re-elected for a second term, and the president in whose favour 
this law was enacted was in fact so re-elected. In 1890, by another law, he was 
made president for life. 

The judiciary power is exercised by district and circuit courts and a supreme 
tribunal composed of judges elected for a period of six years. The ciNil and 
criminal code is the same for all the states except those of Tera Cruz and 
Tlaxcala. Imprisonment for debt is abolished, and the republic binds itself to 
reject all extradition treaties for political offences. The decimal system has been 
legalised for weights, measures, and currency. 

Under the colonial regime the clergy exercised great power in the government 
of the country. Its enormous revenues, combined with the spiritual authority 
enabling it to open or close the gates of heaven, ensured it the unquestioned 
control of the Indian populations. Some of the prelates had incomes of £40,000, 
and, according to Lucas Alaman, the ecclesiastical estate represented half of the 
whole property of Mexico. Although the wealth and power of these high 
dignitaries were diminished by the war of independence, the clergy still retained 
great influence, for the Creole priests, such as Hidalgo and Morelos, who sided 
with the people or even stirred them to revolt against Spain, caused those church- 
men to be forgotten who, on the contrary, hurled anathemas against the rebels. 
About the middle of the present century Lerdo de Tejada still estimated at one- 
third of the national territory the lands owned by the clergy. With the revenues 
derived from hypothecated trusts and from tithes still illegally collected, this 
vast fortune yielded an annual income of about £4,000,000. But in 1855 the 
clergy numbered altogether not more than 4,615, some "poor curates," others 
prelates and other dignitaries " rolling in wealth." A first blow had been given 
to the power of the Church by the Spaniards themselves in 1767, when all the 
Jesuits residing in Mexico were imprisoned, deprived of their property and then 
banished. The revolution was completed nearly a century afterwards, in 18-57, 
by the mortmain law ordering the immediate sale of ecclesiastical property. But 


the struggle for ascendency was none the less continued, and the higher clergy 
did not consider themselves vanquished till after the fall of Maximilian, the 
withdrawal of the French troops, and the definite triumph of the republican 
party. They were then deprived of their effects, and the priests lost the right 
of superintending schools and celebrating their rites in public. The establish- 
ment of religious corporations or communities was forbidden, and since 1873 the 
Church has been completely sejiarated from the State, which has proclaimed itself 
neutral as regards the various cults. Over a hundred Protestant churches, 
belonging to twelve different sects and nearly all founded by American mission- 
aries, have been built in the capital and in other parts of the country. In 1866 
the capital also contained as many as 37 Protestant schools, attended by 1,310 
pupils. On the other hand, in several remote districts where the population is 
purely Indian, the old Catholic ceremonies are being rapidly forgotten. Many 
parishes remain without priests, and the natives cease to practise any outward 
form of worship. In nearly all the towns, except in Michoacan, churches have 
been transformed to workshops, barracks, warehouses, even circuses for bull- 
fights, for this pastime, after having been interdicted, is again permitted. 

Although small, the Mexican army is relatively larger than that of the 
United States. In 1889 it comprised altogether over 27,000 men with the 
gendarmes and rangers ; with the reserves it forms a force of 160,000 of all 
arms. Mexico also possesses a flotilla of two corvettes and three gunboats, and 
naval schools have been founded at Mazatlan and Campeachy. The Mexican 
forces are doubtless insignificant compared with the vast armaments of the great 
military powers ; nevertheless they suffice to weigh heavily on the federal budget, 
the expenditure under this head amounting to from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000, 
or over one-third of the national outlay. 

The finances of the republic were long in a state of the greatest confusion, 
especially at a time when foreign traders were able to emjiloy diplomatic influences 
for the purpose of raising fictitious claims, and compelling the Mexican Govern- 
ment to pledge the customs as security for their demands. Since that epoch, the 
revenues of the republic have rapidly increased. Over half of the receipts 
are derived from the duties levied at the seaports almost exclusively on imported 
goods. Stamps represent a fourth, and direct contributions not more than a 
twentieth of the annual budget. Another resource is the profit on coining, which 
has acquired so much importance in Mexico, where the various mints have issued 
altogether £720,000,000 in gold and silver since their foundation. 

To the federal budget must be added those of the different states, which 
average about £2,000,000 j-early, and lastly, those of the municipalities, which 
have an estimated collective value of from £200,000 to £250,000. 

The national debt, although less in proportion than about the middle of the 
century, was estimated in 1890 at £20,500,000. 

In the Appendix will bo found a table of the several states and territories, with 
their areas and approximate populations. 



HIS colonial territory, one of tlie least important in the vast 
British Empire, is, geograpliicallY speaking, nothing more than a 
|S=jj^. j section of Yucatan, conventionally severed from the peninsula. 
On the north, however, the frontier towards Mexico is distinctly 
marked by the southern shores of Chetumal Bay, and by the 
course of the Eio Hondo. Southwards the Eio Sarstun (Sarstoon) has been 
chosen as the political botmdary as far as the so-called Gracias-a-Dios rapids. 
From this point an arbitrary parting-Kne runs nearly north to Garbutt's Falls on 
the Eio Viejo (ilopan, or Belize), and is continued thence to the Eio Hondo. 
This line, laid down by the treaty of 1860, but not actually surveyed, is assumed 
very nearly to coincide with 89° 30' west longitude. 

Physically an integral part of Yucatan, this region was also politically regarded 
as within the Spanish main ever since the year 1506 or 1508, when its shores 
were visited by Yauez Pinzon and Juan Dias de Solis. But towards the close of 
the seventeenth century, some English corsairs seized the island of Carmen, which 
half closes the entrance to the Terniiuos lagoon on the opposite side of Yucatan. 
In 1717 they were driven from their stronghold by a Spanish flotilla, and then 
took refuge on the east coast of the peninsula ; here they founded a settlement, 
which, from the name of their leader, was known as Wallace, a term afterwards 
corrupted by the Spaniards to Belice or Belize. In this outlying station, far 
removed from the centre of Spanish authority, they easily held their ground, and, 
with the aid of the Indians and half-caste negroes, even overran the surrounding 
districts. But in 1730 an expedition was sent against them, which seized their 
boats, and fired their cabins and the piles of logwood collected on the beach. 
After the departure of the Spaniards, the English settlers returned from the 
forests where they had taken refuge, and reoccupied the place. 

Again expelled by a second expedition, they again returned, erected fortified 
posts at the entrances of all the rivers, and remained henceforth free from all 
attack. By the treaty of Paris of 1765 they acquired the right to hold peaceful 
possession of the territory already occupied, but only for the purpose of working 
the surrounding forests, and trading in the timber and other natural produce. 
Their forts and palisades had to be razed, all permanent agricultural settlements, 



Fig. 82.— Bbitish Honbubab. 
Scale 1 : 2,800,000. 

municipalities, and organised forces were interdicted, and the country remained 
a political possession of Spain. These conditions were maintained by the treaty 
of Yersailles of 1783 ; which, however, enlarged the area of the forest domain 
conceded to the descendants of the English intruders. But England was the 

stronger power, and the war 
that broke out towards the 
close of the last century, 
followed by the naval vic- 
tory of 1798, enabled Great 
Britain to claim, by right 
of conquest, the territory 
which she had hitherto oc- 
cupied by erfforced conces- 
sion. The sovereign dominion 
which the English now set 
up was never seriously con- 
tested, and the protests of 
the Spaniards were regarded 
as mere formalities. The 
settlers even continued from 
year to year to encroach on 
the territories lying beyond 
the stipulated frontiers. Thus 
the southern frontier, origi- 
nally fixed at the Rio Sibun, 
was gradually shifted about 
110 miles farther south to 
the Amatique inlet, at the 
head of the Gulf of Hon- 

British Honduras, whose 
superficial area is approxi- 
mately estimated at 7,560 
square miles, is but thinlj' 
peopled, the whole popula- 

89' West oF GreenwTcli 



Oto 60 

60 to 500 

600 F.tthoms 
and upwai-ds. 

-60 Miles. 

tion numbering, in 1887, 
somewhat less than 28,000. 
Tn the sixteen years since 
1871, the total increase had 
only been 3,000, and at present there cannot be more than about three per- 
sons to the square mile. Belize is thus by far the least densely-peopled region 
in Central America, a fact explained by the unfavourable climatic conditions, 
which make most of it unsuitable for Anglo-Saxon colonisation. There are 
scarcely more than 400 English settlers altogether, a number greatly exceeded by 


the Spanish half-castes and the descendants of political refugees from the Central 
American republics. In the towns the bulk of the people are Mulattos of all 
shades, while the hamlets scattered over the rural districts are occupied chiefly 
by the so-called " Caribs," that is, Indians who have, no doubt, some Curib blood 
in their veins, derived from the Caribs removed in 1797 by the English from 
St. Vincent to the islands on the Honduras coast. 

Some 30 miles above the town of Belize the river is fringed by a large 
number of artificial mounds, which have not yet been explored. They ajjpear to 
have been either burial-places, or raised camping-grounds, to serve as refuges for 
the people during the floods. Anyhow, they show that this region was not always 
a solitude. 

Although within an eighteen-days' voyage of England, the interior of Belize 
is less known than Central Africa. Yet few regions abound more in natural 
resources of all kinds. " One of the most remarkable peculiarities of the climate 
and soil is that almost all the tropical products of commercial value may be grown 
in the same zone. I have frequently seen maize, rice, bananas, pineapples, 
oranges, coffee, cacao, cotton, cassava, rubber, and cocoanuts all flourishing on the 
same piece of land. Cacao of good quality is found growing wild in the forests ; 
there is an abundance of fibre-producing plants, particularly henequen and silk- 
grass, varieties of the aloe, and there is a large extent of land suitiible for cattle 
and mule breeding."* In the southern part of the tsrritory, the area of drainage 
within the British frontier is very narrow ; the Hlls in this district are, for the 
most part, merely the advanced spurs of the Sierra de Chama, which traverses the 
Guatemalan province of Alta Vera Paz. In these unexplored regions the 
highest summits visible from the sea exceed 1,000 feet, while the little isolated 
group of limestone rocks known as the " Seven Hills," terminating in a head- 
land on Amatique Bay, falls to about half that elevation. Northwards, pine- 
clad cliffs skirt the shore at a certain distance inland, forming, so to say, a second 
beach rising above the low-lying coast zone. 

The Cockscomb Mountains. 

In British Honduras the highest mountains are the C( ckscomb range, 
which are also connected by a lateral ridge with the Guatemalan system. The 
loftiest peaks lie within British territory, where the main nrest is disposed in the 
direction from west to east, while from the northern slopes torrents descend to the 
River Belize. These uplands, which are richly wooded on their lower flanks, and 
dotted with a few pine-trees on their higher escarpments, consist partly of granite, 
as shown by the rolled blocks in the beds of the torrents. Explorers have 
sijecially noticed hard limestones veined with quartz and vertically disposed schists, 
which are very diSttcult to scale. These are probably the pedernaks which Cortes 
and his followers took twelve days to cross during his wonderful expedition to 
Honduiasin 1524. Victoria Peak, the culminating point, ascended for the first 

* J. BcUaraj-, Proc. Ji. Geo. Soc, September, 18S9. 
\"C)I,. X\'1I. O 


time during the Goldsworthy expedition of 1888, has an altitude of 3,700 feet. 
Other summits, one of which was named, from the geologist of the expedition, 
Bellamy Peak (2,700 feet), follow in the direction from west to east, where the 
range terminates abruptly in a few hills or low offshoots. Victoria Peak, which 
presents the aspect of a sharp and apparently inaccessible needle, was, neverthe- 
less, scaled by several members of the expedition, aiding themselves with ropes 
and a few gnarled and stunted fig-trees. 

" The top of Mount Victoria is a thorough j^cak, with but little room for 
moving about, and an extensive view is obtained on all sides. For some distance 
the prospect is nothing but alternate ridge and valley, densely wooded. There 
were no higher points north of us, but to the south Montagua and Omoa, in 
Spanish Honduras, were seen towering above the rest. No open country was 
seen, nor any of the traditional lakes.'' * In the Cockscomb and conterminous 
Guatemalan uplands geologists have discovered iron and lead ores as well as traces 
of gold and silver. But whenever these highlands become connected with the 
neighbouring se iports, they will have the still greater advantages of offering to 
agricultural settlers miny fertile valleys, and a far more healthy climate than 
that of the surrounding lowlands. Here sooner or later wiH be established the 
health-resort of British Honduras. 


The low- lying plains receive an abundant rainfall, the excess finding its way 
to the sea through numerous and copious streams. The Sarstun, on the southern 
frontier, is 700 yards wide at its mouth, and has nearly seven feet of water at the 
bar ; within this obstruction vessels ride at anchor in depths of 35 or even 40 feet. 
The other rivers, following northwards, although generally rising nearer to the 
coast and less voluminous, are all equally navigable. Some even send down 
sufficient water to fill the coast lagoons on both sides, and carry far seawards two 
banks of alluvial matter. One of the largest is the Sibun, which reaches the sea 
a few miles south of the capital, after traversing a region of limestone hills pierced 
by underground galleries. It receives some of the waters flowing from the Cocks- 
comb range, which however is chiefly drained by the Mopan, or Belize as it is usually 
called by the English. This river rises south-east of Lake Itza, or Peten, in Gua- 
temala, and after a winding north-easterly course enters British territory at the 
Garbutt Falls. Here it is known to the inhabitants by the Spanish name of Rio 
Viejo, or " Old River," probably because before the arrival of the English settlers 
it had already been used as a navigable waterway. The Belize deposits a great 
quantity of sediment in the shallow waters about its mouth, where a long alluvial 
peninsula has thus been formed, which projects beyond the normal shore- line. 
North of tlie Belize no other rivers worthy of the name are met except the Nuevo 
and Hondo, which discharge their waters at the south-west corner of Chetumal 
Bay. The Hondo, that is, " Deep," deserves its name, being navigable for a great 
part of its course, which forms the frontier-line between British Honduras and 

* Bellamy, loc. cit. 


that part of Yucatan which is still held by the independent Indians. Eoth the 
Xuevo and Hondo traverse low-lying districts studded with shallow lakes which 
communicate with the shifting fluvial channels. 


For a distance of loo miles, between the Amatique and Chetumal inlets, the 
whole seaboard is fringed b}" an outer coastline formed by coral reefs, which here 
and there develop wooded cays, islands, and inlets, the lines of mangroves grow- 
ing even on the still submerged banks. The space between the two coasts, which 
is no less than eighteen miles wide, is for the most part occupied by shoals covered 
by only a few yards of water. Xevertheless winding channels sheltered from the 
surf run parallel with the seaboard between the coral beds, and thus form a valuable 
line of inland navigation available for the coasting trade. 

Seen from the high sea, the chain of breakers separating the inner lagoons 
from the outer waters seems impassable, nor can they be crossed vrithout a pilot 
even by skippers provided with the best charts. Js^evertheless some of the passages 
are very deep, that of BeHze, amongst others, ranging from 50 to 150 feet and 
upwards. Others, again, are so shallow that the local fishermen are able to wade 
across them. The opening between the Yucatan mainland and Ambergris, largest 
of the cays, is accessible only to small craft drawing less than 30 inches. 

Chetiunal Bay, which is separated from the sea by Ambergris Island, presents 
the same general features as the two more northerly bays of Espiritu Santo and 
Asencion in Yucatan, but it is far larger, having a superficial area of some 400 
square miles. The whole basin teems with coralline life, and the reefs in process 
of formation, covered with a mean depth of from 10 to 16 feet of water, are highest 
at the entrance of the passage, growing more slowly towards the head of the 
inlets, where depths of 24 to 26 feet are met. The inland basin itself is navi- 
gated only by flat-bottomed craft, which are engaged in shipping timber and dye- 
woods about the mouths of the rivers. It is noteworthy that both shore-lines, the 
already consolidated beach on the mainland and the outer chain of cays, run nearly 
parallel to each other, and that the latter forms the direct southern continuation 
of the east Yucatan seaboard. Moreover, the valley traA'ersed by the Belize river 
above its great bend round to the east is continued northwards by a series of 
lagoons and by another fluvial valley, that of the Eio Xuevo (Xew Biver), all of 
which are disposed in the same direction, forming with the west side of Chetumal 
Bay a third line parallel with that of both shores. 

The Eio Hondo also flows in the same diiection along the foot of a cliff which 
may likewise have been an old shore- line. Lastly, still farther inland, the parallel- 
ism is maintained in the interior of Yucatan by the twin Mariscal and Bacalar 
lagoons, and if the maps of this part of British Honduras can be trusted, other 
lagoons, such as Aguada San Pedro, Aguada Concepcion and Aguada Carolina, 
au follow the same general direction, which would appear to be that of successively 
developed coastlines. But this hypothesis still awaits confirmation from the 



geological survey of the interior, which will probably show that the banks of the 
parallel rivers and lagoons are really composed of coralline rocks constituting 
west and east a series of terraces with very broad steps. An analogous pheno- 

Fig. 83. — Paealielism of the Old and Eeceijt "Watebcottbses. 
Scale 1 : 3,000,000. 



50 to 600 

500 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. GO Slilcs. 

menon is presented by the concentric shores of Florida, which were successively 
formed by the coral-builders during the course of ages. 

The islands in the gulf beyond the fringing reefs also follow the general 
direction and belong to the same formation. Thus Turneffe, that is, Tierra Nueva, 
a verdant group facing Belize, rests on a foundation of reefs whose chanuels, partly 


obstructed by sand, form natural reservoirs for fish and turtles. Turneffe may 
be regarded as a large island disposed in a line with the Chinchorro bank and 

Cozumel Island in the Yucatan waters. It looks like a first instalment towards a 
future beach, while yet another shore-line in course of development seems to be 
indicated by the more distant Glover and Lighthouse rocks. 

Climate, Flora, Fauna. 

British Honduras, a mere political enclave at the neck of the Yucatan peninsula 
between Mexico and Guatemala, differs little in its climate from these regions. 
At Belize the mean temperature is about 78" or 80' Fahr., and although even 
in summer it scarcely rises above 86', the heat is very difficult to bear, owing to 
the humidity of the atmosphere. In the town of Belize, surrounded by rivers, 
lagoons and swamps, fogs are frequent and dews abundant ; hence the sky is 
mostly overcast, and when the west wind blows, the mosquitoes arrive, with 
intermittent agues caused by the exhalations from the neighbouring marshes. 
"Winter is the best season, when the northern winds prevail, and when the roar 
of the breakers is heard on the chain of islands, under whose shelter the water 
remains calm at Belize. 

The flora and fauna of British Honduras resemble those of Yucatan, but in 
all the non-calcareous and well-watered valleys the forests are far more extensive 
and leafy. In the interior the woodlands alternate with pastures such as those 
of Peten, where hundreds of thousands of cattle might be raised, but where the 
destructive nigua (jmlex peiiefram) has been introduced from the east. The 
British Honduras waters are well stocked with fish, and here large numbers of 
turtles are captured for the London market. 


The town, which under the Spanish form of Belize stiU bears the name of its 
founder, the freebooter "VTallace, lies on the west side of the inner lagoon, where 
the scarcely emerged land is traversed by the Rio Yiejo (Mopan, or Belize). The 
two quays of the port are connected by a wooden bridge which crosses the 
mouth of the river. But the ground is so low that it has had to be artificially 
raised with the ballast of vessels frequenting the harbour, with driftwood and 
other flotsam. Nevertheless a tide a little higher than the usual, which scarcely 
exceeds twenty inches, would stiffice to flood the houses, ilost of these are built 
of wood, or rest on pUes, for stone or brick would soon sink into the spon^v 
soil. A few villas stand on the neighbomiag islets, these being considered more 
salubrious than the town, beyond which extends a marshy tract crossed by embank- 
ments. The harbour shoals so gradually that it is accessible only to vessels of 
light draught ; it is also exposed to the east winds, though the surf is broken by 
the islands fringing the coast and by the more distant reefs. The only supplies 
procurable on the spot are the fish and other produce of the neighbouring waters ; 



it is quite impossible to raise any crops on the flooded or swampy ground in the 
neighbourhood, and Belize formerly drew nearlj^ all its provisions from Bacalar 
in Yucatan, whence they were forwarded by Chetumal Bay. But since the 
destruction of that place, supplies are drawn from various parts of the seaboard, 
and especially from the United States across the Gulf of Mexico. Although 
surrounded by rivers, Belize is unable to procure any water even from the Mopan, 
and is supplied by cisterns. But while the neighbouring forests abounded in 
mahogany, campeachy wood and cedar, which were easily floated down in the 

Fig. 84. — Belize and the Cockscomb MouNTAr:Ja. 
Scale 1 : i.eon.ocn. 


n f 5 

5 to 50 

50 to 500 

500 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

30 Miles. 

form of rafts, the settlers did a flourishing trade, and grew rich despite the many 
drawbacks of the position. Now, however, timber of large size has become rare, 
and the inhabitants, mostly blacks or people of colour, have been compelled to 
engage in other pursuits, and at present the trade of Belize consists chiefly in 
produce and wares imported from the United States and Great Britain, which 
are redistributed amongst the Atlantic ports of Guatemala and Honduras. The 
local e-Kports are chiefly fruits, and most of the traffic is served by a steamer 
plying regularly between New Orleans and Belize. 

The population of the town has fallen from nearly 11,000 in 1844 to less than, 
6,000 in 1889, and Belize can scarcely fail to continue to decline whenever more 


I : 



frequent direct commuuications are established between the Central American ports 
and those of Europe and the Uuitcd States. A revival of prosperitj^ ™;iy, however, 
be brought about by developing the neighbouring sugar, coffee, banana, orange, 

Fig 85. — Domains of Bkitish Honduras. 

Scale 1 : 2,500,000. 

Crown Liuids. Domam of the Other CoQcessions. 

Belize Estate Company. 

, 60 Miles. 

caoutchouc and henequen plantations, and by opening new routes or railways with 
the inland districts of Peten and Yucatan. But such pro.<pects appear somewhat 
remote, at least so long as most of the estates continue to be held by absentee pro- 


prietors, unwilling or unable to develop the local resources. One land compiny 
alone owns over one-third of the colonial domain, although unable to utilise a 
hundredth part of its property. 

The port of Coroml, or Pahncraie, occupies a favourable position at the mouth 
of the New River and not far from the Rio Hondo ; it is thus the natural outlet for 
the timber felled in these two fluvial basins. Corosal has also naturally benefited 
by the destruction of Bacalar, which was situated some 30 miles to the north-west, 
on the lagoon of like name. Those who escaped the fury of the Indian rebels 
emigrated in mass to British territory, and Corosal is now the second town in 
the English colony, with flourishing sugar plantations, and about 5,000 inhabi- 
tants, mostly of Spanish speech. The other settlements are mere hamlets or 
plantations, or else fishing villages such as San Pedro, on Ambergris Island, which 
does som3 traffic with Balize. The most important p^rts on the coast are Stanii 
Creek and Ptnifa Gordn, both occupied by Carib settlers, who have cleared large 
tracts and supply Belize with cattle, fruits, and vegetables. About 700 negroes 
from the Southern States have also founded the settlement of Toledo, about ten 
miles south of Punta Gorda, where they are chiefly occupied with sugar-growing. 
Turneffe has only a single fishing hamlet, though the explorations have shown 
that it was formerly far more densely peopled. 


British Honduras is a Crown Colony, under the direct control of the Home 
Government, and administered by a Governor, with a legislative council of ten 
members. The annual budget of over £40,000 consists chiefly of custom-house 
dues, supplemented by a grant from Great Britain ; a small sum is also raised by 
the sale of lands at the relatively high price of nine shillings an acre. Few 
small holders, however, venture to settle in the neighbourhood of the powerful 
financial companies. Belize and some other ports are occujDied by a few troops 
from Jamaica. In 1872, they were called upon to protect the frontier against an 
incursion of the Ma3a Indians. The blacks of Belize enjoy the privilege of self- 
government, electing a " queen," who is enthroned with great pomp, and to whom 
they submit all their little differences. 




I. — Gener.\l Survey. 

^TIE long strip of tropical lands disposed iu the direction from nortii- 
west to soutli-east between the Tehuantepec Isthmus and the Atrato 
vaUey, constitutes a geographical region quite distinct from the 
great continental masses of North and South America ; they are, 
=J however, usually grouped with the northern section of the New 
World, to which they are attached by a broad base gradually narro \ ing south- 
wards. In a remote geological epoch they were detached from both, constituting 
a chain of islands analogous to those of the West Indies. But the exploration of 
these lands is still far from complete, except in a few districts separated from each 
other by less-known intervening tracts ; hence it is not yet possible to indicate the 
exact outlines of this insular chain before the marine channels were filled up. It 
seems evident, however, that this process was not accomplished in a single epoch, 
and some of the passages stiU persisted for long ages after others had been changed 
to dry land either by eruptive formation? or by alluvial deposits. 

Some of the ancient interoceanic channels, such as those of Tehuantepec and 
Nicaragua, may still be clearly traced along their primitive shores. The Costa 
Eica and Panama peninsulas are also now attached to the mainland by isthmuses 
whose original marine character is easily determined. The other straits are more 
difficult to recognise ; but it is no longer doubtful that the sea formerly occupied 
the central depression of Honduras at the Guajoca and Eancho Chiquito passes, 
as well as the central plateau of Costa Rica, at that of Ochomogo. Other channels 
flowed between Chiriqui and David Bays, while the track of the Panama and 
Darien Canals was already indicated by the former marine depressions, one of 
which is also now occupied by the valler of the lower Atrato. The narrowest part 
of these isthmuses has been attributed politically to the South American State of 
Colombia ; but such official awards correspond in no way with, the divisions far 
more sharply traced by the hand of nature herself. Thus the physical limit of 
Central America is still clearlv determined ia Colombian territory by the course 
of the Atrato, the wooded morasses lining its banks and the depression connecting 
this fluvuil basin with that of the San Juan. 


Central America, tuken in its narrowest political sense, that is as the region 
of isthmuses-excluding Chiapas, .-hich belongs to Mexico, and the double crescen 
of Panama, which is mcluded in Colombia-has more than once constituted a .mgle 
political dominion. Under the Spanish rule the Eoyal Aui:enza of GuateoKda, 
^hich also comprised the present Mexican province o£ Soconusco, extended south- 
wards to Chiriqui Bay. In 1823, when the independence of Guatemala was pro- 
claimed, the southern provinces continued to form part of the new repubUc, of 
which Guatemala was the capital. But in 1838, after much cud strife, this con- 
federacy was definitely dissolved, and Central America became decomposed into tne 

Fig. 86.— Old Stkait3 in Ce.vteal Amebica. 
Scale 1 : •215,0>)0,0U0. 

Wesl oF Greenwich 

^ 300 Wiles. 

five autonomous States of Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, NiCAU.iGUA and 

Costa Eica. . . 

But in 1879, the constitution of Guatemala already anticipated an intimate 
political union between the various republics, and engaged on Its part to maintain 
and cultivate " mutual family relations " with them. It also expressed the wish 
of the people to again form part of a larger Central American nationality. All 
natives of the neighbouring republics became by right Guatemalan citizens by 
merely expressing a desire to that effect. At the same time, all these acts of 
fraternal legislation were accompanied by warlike armaments, to compel the other 
states to join the union should they prove refractory. In 1886, on the mitiative 
of Guatemala, a congress was held for the purpose of preparing a new scheme of 


federation, aud next year it was decided that all disputes between the several 
states should be henceforth decided, not by war, but by arbitration. In order to 
give practical effect to that principle, Costa Rica and Xicaragua, at that time 
at war about a question of frontiers, appealed to the decision of the United Slates 
President. Lastly, the congress assembled ia September, 1889, in the city of 
San Salvador, concluded a treaty of union between the five states, thereby 
constituting themselves a federation under the name of " Centro-America," for a 
provisional term of ten years. According to this ofiicial project, the novitiate 

llg. 87. — Political Dmsioxs of Cexteai. Asiebica. 
Scale 1 : 17,500,000. 

, SOOJIiles. 

should be brought to a close in 1900, when the definite federal constitution will 
be proclaimed. 

But scarcely had this federal compact been signed when disappointed ambi- 
tions tore it to shreds. A fierce war broke out between San Salvador and 
Guatemala ; Costa Rica and Honduras soon after joined in the frav ; and no sooner 
had these troubles been momentarily quelled than Hondni-as became the scene of 
a sanguinary revolution, calling for the active interference of Guatemala. In 
the middle of Xovember, 1890, President Bogran, of Honduras, had to fly for his 
life, and a de facto government was proclaimed by General Sanchez, leader of the 
revolutionary party. Sanchez was soon after captured aud shot. But towards 


the close of the year the outlook was extremely gloom}', and nil the Central 
American states threatened to be involved in a general conflagration. 

The great leno-th itself of Central America, which extends south-eastwards 
for a distanje of about 750 miles, with a comparatively narrow mean breadth, 
seemed already to point at a future rupture between the various ethnical groups 
in this reo-ion. Here the inhabited zone is even considerably narrower than the 
strip of land itself. The civilised populations, Spanish or Mestizo, have nearly 
all settled along the Pacific coast, so that, on the opposite slope, the great fluvial 
basins of Gu itemala, the northern forests of Honduras, the almost unexplored 
valleys of Mosquitia, are, so to say, so many desert regions, occupied by a few 
half-savage scattered tribes. Thus the civilised peoples, those who have con- 
stituted themselves in republican states, form little more than a slender cordon 
of towns and villages stretching along the west side of Central America. This 
ethnical contrast beWeen the two oceanic slopes is in great measure explained by 
the physical contrasts of soil and climate. On the Pacific side are found nearly 
all the more fertile and less humid lands, which offer a more regular alternation 
between the dry and the rainy seasons. But other causes also tend to the relative 
depopulation of the Atlantic seaboard. Columbus here first began to kidnap the 
natives, and his example was followed by the West Indian planters in search of 
slaves to cultivate their estates. Thus all the lands accessible by sea, or by the 
rivers, were wasted, and the populations that escaped capture by the slave-hunters 
took refuge in the remote interior. Then the Spanish settlers were naturally 
unable to establish factories and develop plantations in a depopulated and unculti- 
vated region. Nevertheless, they needed, at any cost, fortified stations to main- 
tain the communications with the mother country ; but when Spanish supremacy 
in the "West Indian waters was supplanted by that of the buccaneers, these posts 
themselves were often attacked and captured. Thus, of the two Central American 
seaboards, the eastern, facing towards Europe, was the " dead," the western, 
skirting the boundless waste of Pacific waters, the " living " coast. 

But the relations have greatly changed since Central America has ceased to 
be a remote dependency of Spain. In the first place the population has increased 
more than threefold ; at the census of 1778 the " kingdom " of Guatemala, 
excluding the province of Chiapas, had a total population of 847,000, which had 
risen to about a milKon in 1821, when Guatemala declared its independence of 
Spain. Since that time the inhabitants of the five republics have more than 
trebled ; the groups of settlers, formerly isolated, have been gradually brought 
closer together by the foundation of intermediate colonies, while the Atlantic 
slope has been partly reclaimed for cultivation, and already possesses its towns and 

Before the introduction of steam navigation, the communications were rare 
and uncertain, depending on the seasons and the winds, and even under the most 
favourable conditions they were always less rapid than at present. The general 
service of packets plying between the seaports and on both sides, arriving and 
departing with the regularity of clockwork, has reduced by more than nine-tenths 


the dimensions of Central America, measured not by miles, but by hours. More- 
over, the interoceanic roads and railways have almost brought into close proximity 
coastlands which were formerly separated by journeys of several days, and even 
■weeks. A project has recently been submitted by the President of the United 
States to Congress, having for its object the exploration of the Central American 
States preparatory to the construction of a railway to run longitudinally from 
Mexico, through Oaxaca, Guatemala, and San Salvador to Panama. 

But much preliminary geographical work remains to be done before any such 
scheme can be taken in hand. Certain regions, such as the metalliferous districts 
of Darien, which were formerly well known, have even fallen into oblivion. In 
the uninhabited tracts, so difficult are the routes across the swamps and densely- 
wooded uplands that small exploring parties run great risks, over and above the 
exposure to the dangerous hot and moist climate. Paths have to be cut through 
the dense tangle of trees and creepers, and the traveller has to avoid the im- 
penetrable thickets, precipitous escarpments, slopes liable to frequent landslijjs, 
gorges flooded by rushing torrents, bottomless quagmires, from which escape is 
impossible. Explorers provided even with the best guides and porters have 
often been unable to advance more than one or two miles a day, and have at times 
been fain to give iip the struggle and retrace their steps. 

The labour already expended during the course of four centuries in discovering 
or creating interoceanic highways represents a prodigious outlay of energy, 
which would have certainly sufficed to accomplish some one great work had it 
not been frittered away in a thousand different essays. The first survey was 
made by Columbus himself, who, in lo02-3, skirted the Central American sea- 
board from Honduras to Vcragua in search of the passage which he hoped would 
lead him to the "mouths of the Ganges." During this voyage he at all events 
heard of another sea, which lay a little farther west. Ten years afterwards 
Nunez de Balboa, at the head of nearly 800 Spanish soldiers and native carriers, 
forced his way across swamps and rivers, through forests and hostile populations. 
In twenty-three days of incessaint struggles and hardships he succeeded in crossing 
the isthmus, here 40 miles wide, and thus reached the sj)acious inlet which he 
named the Gulf of St. Michael. Advancing fully armed into the rising flood, 
he took possession of the new ocean " with its lands, its shores, its ports and 
islands, from the north to the south pole, within and without both tropics, now 
and for ever, so long as the world shall last, and unto the judgment day of all 
mortal races." But the strait still remained undiscovered, and it was being 
sought in the waters west of the Antilles, when Magellan had already found it 
at the southern extremity of the American continent. 

When it became evident that there existed no marine passage between the 
Caribbean Sea and the Pacific, the idea naturally occurred of opening such a 
passage across one or other of the narrow isthmuses separating the two oceans. 
Such an undertaking was beyond the exhausted resources of Spain ; nevertheless 
expeditions were made for the purpose of studying the problem at the isthmus 
of Tehuantepec, on the banks of the San Juan and Lake Nicaragua, at Panama, 


and other points. Since the Central American states have asserted their inde- 
pendence such projects have followed rapidly one on the other, all based on 
individual or collective surveys, and promoted by costly expeditious, official 
encouragement and concessions, lastl}' even by colossal operations actually begun 
and actively prosecuted for years. The annals of Central America record no less 
than a hundred plans and schemes for cutting the isthmuses since the year 1825, 
when the Mexican Congress had the Tehuantepec region again surveyed, and 
more accurate information brought to bear on the project brought forward by 
Orbegozo in 1771. Panama, like Constantinople and Alexandria, lies at a point 
of paramount importance for the growing commerce of the world ; if before the 
era of universal peace the leading nations agree to proclaim the neutralisatiori 
of certain places essential to the well-being of the human race, assuredly the 
American isthmuses wiU be included in the category of such territories. 

II. — Guatemala. 

This republic is by far the most important of the five Central American states, 
for it contains nearly one-half of their collective population. Like its Mexican 
neighbour, it still bears a name of Aztec origin, the term Guatemala (Quauh- 
temallan), according to some interpreters, meaning " Eagle Land," though 
a less poetic etymology gives it the signification of " Land of the Wooden 
Piles." Others again write, U-ha-tez-ma-la, a group of syllables which would 
mean, "Mountain vomiting water," the whole region being so named in reference 
to the Agua (" AVater ") volcano, one of its loftiest cones. 

Guatemala corresponds very nearly to the two former Spanish provinces of 
Quezaltenango and Guatemala, though the frontiers have been shifted in many 
places, while in others they were never accurately determined. Those at last 
officially adopted coincide neither with the natural geographical divisions nor 
with the distribution of the ethnical groups. Thus the whole of Soconusco with 
a part of Chiapas would seem properly to belong to Guatemala, of which they 
form an orographic extension. On the other hand Peten, inhabited, like Yucatan, 
by Mayas, and also resembling that region in the nature of its soil and products, 
should form a political dependency of that ri-gion rather tlian of Guatemala, 
from which it is separated by a steep mountain range. Towards British Honduras 
the frontier has been drawn by a straight line across mountains and valley's, from 
one torrent to another, the political border coinciding with the natural features 
only in the district where it follows the Sarstun river to its mouth in Amatique 
Ba}'. Eastwards the territory of the republic is limited by a meandering line, 
which runs north-east and south-west from the mouth of the Rio Tinto on the 
Atlantic to that of the Rio Paza on the Pacific. This line follows the crests of 
the hills throughout a great part of its course, though here and there the boundary 
is purely conventional. Taken as a whole Guatemala, excluding the northern 
plains, has the form of a triangle with its base on the Pacific and its apex 
projecting towards Honduras Bay. 



Physical Features. 

In its main outlines the relief of Guatemala is extremely simple. The more 
elevated part of the plateau skirts the Pacific at a mean distance of 50 or GO 
miles from the sea, and presents in this direction its more precipitous but also its 
more regular escarpments. The slope facing the Atlantic, although much longer 
and more gentle, is more difficult to traverse, owing to its abrupt ravines and the 
deep gorges excavated by the running waters. The Guatemalan range does not 
terminate in a sharp crest, but, on the contrary, is rounded off towards the summit, 
where it broadeus out in granitic plateaux of various extent, forming, so to say, 
so many mesas, or " tables," somewhat analogous to those of Anahuac. The great 
irregularity of the sierra is due to the volcanoes, which have risen above these 

Fig. 88. — Tkesd of the Guatemalan Raxges. 
Scale 1 : 4.600,1X10. 

, CO Miles. 

mountains but which are not disposed in a lino with the sierra ivself. Towards 
the frontier of Chiapas and in the Altos, or uplands, of Quczaltenango, the great 
eruptive cones lie exactly on the upper edge of the plateau, their slopes merging 
in the escarj^ments of the pedestal on which they rest. But farther on, that is, 
in the direction of Salvador, the axis of the volcanoes running almost due south- 
east ceases to coincide with that of the sierra, which trends more to the north, 
while the lofty pyramids rise midwaj' on the slope of the range, where they are 
enclosed by a rampart of ravines. But to the traveller coasting along the Guate- 
malan seaboard, the peaks which he sees rising at intervals above the land horizon 
seem to shoot up from the very crest of the mountains. 

The elevation of the escarpments rising above the southern shores of Guatemala 
falls gradually from the frontiers of Chiapas south-eastwards in the direction of 
Salvador. In the Altos or "Heights," as the western part of the state is called, 


the plateaux exceed 6,500 feet ; that of Totonicapam rises even to 8,000 feel, while 
the chief summits tower some 3,000 feet still higher. The great central plain of 
Guatemala, lying on the waterparting between both oceanic slojies, has a mean 
altitude of 5,000 feet, and is dominated bj' the crater-shaped peaks of the Antigiia 
district, which reach an elevation of 10,000 feet. Lastly, in the eastern provinces 
the uplands do not appear greatly to exceed a mean height of 3,300 feet, with 
culminating peaks from 4,000 to 5,000 feet. 

South-east of the active Tacana volcano, which has been chosen as the boun- 
dary between Mexico and Guatemala, the next igneous cone is Tajomulco, which 
also exceeds 11,600 feet; it dominates the plateau undt.r the form of a huge 
and perfectly regular cone clothed at its base with dense forests. The Indians 
here find large quantities of suljihur, which led DoUfus and Mont-Serrat to sup- 
pose that the deposits were constantly renewed by solfataras as fast as they were 
cleared away. Here flames were distinctly seen shooting up by BernouilH in 1863. 
Beyond Tajomulco no burning mountains occur till Quezaltenango is reached. 
This group comprises three cones disposed north and south, the northern, some 
ten miles from the town, being a mere hillock 600 or 700 feet high. But the 
southern, Santa Maria, whose superb peak, 12,400 feet high, is visible from the sea, 
is one of the most imposing mountains in Guatemala. Like the other it h is been 
extinct from time immemorial, and dense forests now clothe both its flanks and 
the crater. In most of the Central American eruptive groups the southern 
volcanoes have remained longest active; but here it is the central cone, the Cerro 
Quemado, called also the Quezaltenango volcano, that still continues in a dis- 
turbed state. Less elevated than Santa Maria, the Oerro Quemado (10,250 feet) 
in no way presents the aspect of a typical volcano. Its symmetry was doubtless 
destroyed during the last eruption of 1785, whea the entire terminal cone was 
blown away, leaving in the place of the crater a spacious irregular plaia covered 
with a chaos of boulders, between which fumeroles are now seen to rise. Since 
then it has been quiescent. 

East of the Quemado and be3-ond the deep gorge of the Rio Samala rises Mount 
Zufiil, or the " Volcano," as it is emphatically called bj' the natives. Yet no 
record remains of any eruption, nor has any explorer yet discovered, in the dense 
forests clothing its flanks, the aperture through which the lavas were formerly 
ejected from this cone, which, like those of the surrounding district, consists of 
trachytic porphyry. About eighteen miles farther on, and in a line with the axis of 
this igneous system, the extinct San Pedro (8,300 feet) raises its pyramidal peak 
near the south-west corner of Lake Atitlan. About ten miles farther east three 
other cones, connected at their base, are disposed north and south transversely to 
the main chain. The two northern peaks, both about 10,000 feet high, terminate 
in small craters already overgrown with vegetation ; but the underground forces 
are still active in the southern member of the group, which is commonly known as 
the Atitlan volcano, and which towers to a height of 11,800 feet. At the time 
of the conquest, Atitlan was in a state of commotion, and when the natives heard 
the continuous rumblings in the interior of the mountain, they threw a young 




maiden down the crater iu order to propitiate the angrj' demon. It was again 
active in 1828 and 18-i''3, and since that time abundant vapours have been con- 
stantly emitted by the crevasses near its summit. 

But the most famous volcanoes in this region are those which dominate the 
central part of the plateau in the vicinity of the successive capitals of Guatemala. 
Looking southwards from the pleasant city of Antigua, the eye sweeps over a 


89.— Chain OF the Fuego Volcano. 

Scale 1 : 00,000. 



West or breen\vich 

. 2,200 Yard 

magnificent prospect of cultivated plains, where the horizon is bounded on both 
.sides by the harmonious profile of the mountain ranges, towering 6,000 feet above 
the surrounding plateau. On one side is the chain terminating in the Fuego, 
or "Fire," on the other the Agua, or " Water," volcano. The eastern sierra, 
where one crater is still active, is itself merely an elevated ridge above which 
rise nine or ten eruptive cones, all disposed in the direction from north to south. 
The northern craters, which are all extinct and overgrown with vegetation, 
\oi,. x\ii. p 


culminate in tlie AcatenangD cone, called also Fico Mai/or, or Pa Ire del Volcan 
("Father of the Volcano"), because it rises higher than Fuego, and is, in fact, 
the loftiest summit in the whole of Central America (l^i.TOO feet). It was 
ascended in 1868 by Wyld de Duefias, who found nothing but three nearly 
obliterated craters, although sulphurous vapours were still escaping from a 
crevasse in one of them. Acatenango is separated by a deep ravine from the 
southern group, which includes the vast but jjartly breached Meseta cone. 
Beyond it follows Fuego (13,200 feet), whose summit, scaled for the first time 
by Schneider and Beschor in I8G0, terminates in a narrow bowl about 85 feet 
deep ; immediately to the south is scan a tremendous chasm, nearly perfectlj' 
roimd, over 4-30 yards in diameter and no less than 2,000 feet deep. Fuego was 
in full eruption at the time of the Spanish invasion, and the terror it inspired 
in the natives seemed to show that they had previous experience of its destructive 
energy. Since that time explosions have been frequent, and the surrounding 
districts have often been laid under ashes. 

Agua, which corresponds to Fuego on the other side of the valley, although 
not quite so lofty (12,360 feet), presents a more majestic appearance due to its 
completely isolated position. Seen from Escuintla, near its southern base, it 
seemed " the most lovely sight in the world " to DoUfus and Mout-Serrat, by 
whom it has been scaled. The gaze here follows the perfect curve of its escarp- 
ments unbroken by any disturbing prominence, while the vegetable zones — 
cultivated ground, leaf}- forests and pine groves — follow with their varying tints 
one above the other along its regular slopes. Despite repeated assertions to the 
contrary, Agua has never been in eruption since the epoch of the conquest. The 
catastrophe to which it owes its name was caused by the bursting of the rim of 
the crater, which was flooded by a terminal tarn at the summit of the mountain. 
To reach this point travellers usually pass through the breach, and here some 
idea may be formed of the liquid mass formerly contained in the -basin suspended 
thousands of feet above the plains. Assuming that the reservoir, about 230 feet 
deep, was entirelj^ filled, it would have been nearlj^ a third of a mile in circum- 
ference at its upper rim, and 760 feet round at the bottom ; consequently, its 
volume could not have been much more than 35,000,000 cubic feet. But when 
the side of the crater gave way on the disastrous day in 1541, the aperture 
occurred immediately above the capital, which the Spanish conquerors had just 
founded on the site of the present Ciudad Yieja. The avalanche of water rushed 
down the mountain, tearing up the ground, sweeping rocks and trees along its 
irresistible course, and bur}'ing the city beneath heaps of mud and debris. 

Agua is separated by the deep valley of the Rio Michatoya from the Pacaya, 
a group of igneous peaks so named from a species of palm growing at its base 
and producing edible flowers. A near view of Pacaj'a reveals a cluster of 
irregular summits, where the supreme cone seems to have disappeared during 
some prehistoric convulsion. The loftiest cone, which is still active, rises to a 
height of 8,400 feet, or some 3,000 feet above the surrounding plateau. Close 
by is a wooded peak, and both of these crests are enclosed within the breached 



marffin of an enormous crater some miles in circumference. Ou a neisrlibourinsr 
terrace also stand two otlier orators, one of which, the Caldcvu, or "Cauldron," of 
the natives, contains a lake of pure water, while from tlic other light vapours 
are still emitted. According to a local tradition the smoking peak of Pacaya was 


the scene of an eruption in 1565, and since that time it has never ceased to eject 
ashes, vapours, and even lavas. 

None of the other volcanoes in the eastern part of Guatemala have been 
disturbed in recent times. Two of these lie a short distance east of Pacaj a at 

p 2 



the villnge of Cerro Itedondo, or "Round Hill," which takes its name from one 
of the cones. Farther on another is mentioned by travellers, beyond which the 
normal igneous chain is cut at right angles by a transverse fissure which extends 
for over 60 miles towards the north-east. It begins near the coast, where the 
Moyuta or JMoj'utla peak rises far to the south of the main axis, and it is con- 
tinued on the opposite o.r north side by Am:ij-o, Cuma or Columa, Santa Catarina, 
or Suchite])ec and Ipala, loftiest pe ik of this transverse range (5,4(35 feet). 

Ipali terminates in a flooded crater, 

Fig. 91.- Pacaya Volcano. 
Seile 1 : 130,000. 

and on one of its flanks is rooted 
another igneous cone called Mount 
Rico. The Guatemalan igneous 
system terminates near the frontier, 
where the perfectly symmetrical 
cone of Chiugo rises to a height of 
over 6,600 feet above the prolonga- 
tion of the main range. Chingo is 
said to be extinct, although DoDfus 
and Mont-Serrat fancied they saw 
some vapours escaping from its 

North of the Guatemalan plateau 
the regions carved by the run- 
ning waters into nuraei'ous separate 
masses present a chaotic appearance 
in many places, especially towards 
the diverging sources of the Motagua 
and Usumacinta rivers. Here the 
highlands form a central nucleus 
whence radiate several elevated 
chains. The loftiest of these sierras 
is probably the Altos Cuchuinatanes, 
which runs north of Huehuetenango 
towards Tabasco ; it is also known 
as the Sierra Madre, although it is 
separated from the other Guatemalan 
ranges by the deep valley of the 
Usumacinta. East of this copious 
stream the ranges are disposed mostly west and east, and gradually diminish 
in altitude in the same direction. Taken as a whole, this northern region of 
Guatemala draining to the Atlantic, and limited southwards by the lofty 
rampart of the main range, may be compared to a stormy sea breaking into 
parallel billows. One of these great billows, consisting of mica schists, runs 
north and parallel to the Motagua under the name of Sierra de las Miuas, so desig- 
nated from its auriferous deposits. Farther east, where it is known as the Sierra 

. Si Miles. 


del Mico, or " Monkey Range," it reaches the coast between the Eio Golfete and 
St. Thomas's Bay, where it terminates in the Cerro de San Gil, a conic mountain 
said by the natives to be a volcano. At the point where it is crossed by the main 
route, about 60 miles from its eastern extremity, the Minas Range is about 3,000 
feet high. The ridge running north of the Rio Polochic takes the nama of Sierra 
Cahabon in the pro\-ince of Alta Vera Paz. Towards its eastern extremity the 
Sierra de Santa Cruz, as it is here called, develops the headland which separates 
the Rio Golfete from Amatique Bay. 

In the north of Guatemala the last great chain is the Charaa, which trends 
north-eastwards round the sources of the Rio de la Pasion. Towards the east it is 
connected by a few low ridges with the Cockscomb Mountains in Briti-sh Honduras. 
The passes over this sierra, which have been traversed by few explorers, are 
extremelv rugged and ditEcult, not so much because of their elevation as of the 
vertical disposition of the rocky crests. North of the Sierra de Chama stretch the 
savannas, which are continued northwards in the direction of Yucatan. But 
these plains are dotted over with isolated hills, for the most part wooded, rising 
like verdant islands in the midst of a verdant sea. 

Speaking generally, the southern and central parts of Guatemala are almost 
entirely covered with pumice in the form of tufa. The granites, mica schists and 
porphyries are only seen here and there, on the more elevated parts of the plateaux 
and mountains, or in the depressions eroded by running waters. The quantity 
of pumice ejected by the volcanoes was prodigious, the deposits accumulated in 
every part of the country having a thickness of loO and even 200 yards. There 
exists scarcely a single valley which has not been partly filled in, or a plateau that 
has not been levelled by these deposits. 

On the masses of pumice lies a layer of yellowish clay, with a mean thickness 
of twelve or fifteen feet, which has probably been formed by the surface decomposi- 
tion of the uuderl\-ing rocks. It is in these clays and in the pumice immediately 
below them that are found from time to time the remains of mastodons and of 
Elephas Culombi, animals which lived during quaternary times. Hence this was 
the epoch during which occm-red the prodigious eruptions of the Guatemalan 

EivKHs AM) Lakes. 

The rainfall is sufficiently abundant in Guatemala to feel a considerable 
number of watercourses. But rivers in the strict sense of the term could scarcely 
be developed except on the Atlantic slope, where the disposition of the land and its 
gradual incline afforded space for the running waters to ramify in extensive fluvial 
systems. On the Pacific side, where the escarpments of the plateaux fall abruptly 
seawards, the torrents descend rapidly through the parallel ravines furrowing the 
flanks of the mountains. Almost waterless during the dry season, but very cojiious 
in winter, these streams for the most part discharge into the coast lagoons. In 
fact, they do not communicate at once with the sea, from which they are separated 
by sandy strips several miles long, and the seaward channels themselves are often 


sliifted by the tides and tempests. One of the largest streams on the Pacific side 
is the Suchiate, which forms the common frontier between Guatemahi and Mexico. 
A still more extensive basin is that of the Siimala, which flows from the Quezal- 
tenango and Totonicapam heights. The Iztacapa is a smaller river, although it 
receives the overflow of ]j ike Atitlan, not through a surface stream, but through 
underground flltrations across the scoriae covering the plain of San Lucas, on the 
southern bank. Lake Atitlan itself, which has an area of 6-5 square miles, 
develops an irregular crescent at an altitude of 5,140 feet, round the spurs of the 
Atitlan volcano, which rises on its southern margin, and which cre.ited the lake by 
damming up the fluvial vallej's. The waters thus jjent up by the accumulating beds 
of ashes and lavas gradually filled the vast Atitlan basin, which is said to have a 
depth of over 1,650 feet. The water, being continually renewed, thanks to the 
subterranean outflow, is perfectly fresh and limpid. 

Farther e;.-it the sm lUer Lake Amatitlan has been forme 1 under analogous 
conditions at an altitude of 4,000 feet. Here the waters have been graduall}^ 
dammed up by the lavas and scoriae deposited by the Pacaya volcjno on the south 
side of the lake. Formerly its busin was oven far more extensive than at present, 
and traces of its old level are still distinctl}^ visible at distances of several miles 
from the present margin. The water of Amatitlan, which exceeds 200 fathoms in 
depth, is as fresh a-3, but less pure than, that of Atitlan, and along the margin its 
temperature is raised by thermal springs. Nearly two hundred years ago .Thomas 
Gage ?poke of it as " somewhat brackish," adding that sdt was collected on irs 
shores. Such is no longer the case, its flavour being in no way affected by the 
slightly purgative salts of soda and magnesia which it contains in solution, though, 
they give rise to a strong odour during the dry season. It is probably fed by 
underground affluents, the few surface streams draiuinar to the basin being 
insufficient to create an emissary. The overflow is discharged south-eastwards to 
the Michato\'a, or " Fidi River," which escapes from the plateau through a deep 
gorge 600 or 700 feet below an escarpment of the Pacaya volcano. Farther on 
the affluent has a clear fall of 200 feet near San Pedro Martir, beyond which 
point it; loses itself in the coast lagoon? a little to the east of the port of San Jose. 

Amatitlan lies about midway between Atitlan and Ayarza (Ayarcesj, a third 
flooded depression at the southern foot of the Mataquezcuintla mountains, which 
here rise to a height of over 8,000 feet. But Ayarza already belongs to the San 
Salvador hydrographic system, draining through the Ostua t> the fluvial basin of 
the Rio Lempa, main ai-tery of the neighbouring state. On the Atlantic slope, 
also all the western and northern regions, at least one-half of the whole territory 
belongs to the Usumaeinta basin, which throughout its lower course flows through 
Sfexican territory'. The largest watercourse entirely comprised within the limits 
of Gruatcmala is the Motagua, which, like so many others in Spanish America, is 
called also the Rio Grande. It rises in the central mass of the Altos de Totoni- 
capam, where its headstrcams are intermingled with those of the Usumacinta. 
Farther oast it collects all the tori'ents descending from the main Guatemalan 
watcrparting, which in many i)laces is contracted to a narrow ridge furrowed on 


both sides by deep ravines. But the Motagua flows, not through one of these 
eroded vallej's, but through an older fissure belonging to the original structure of 
the land. After its confluence with the copious affluent from the Esquipulas and 
Chiquimula, the Motagua becomes navigable for small craft. From this point it 
follows a north-easterly course, skirted on both sides by picturesque wooded 
heights all the way to its mouth in Honduras Bay. During the floods it is a 
broid and deep stream, navigable for over 100 miles in a total length of 300 miles. 
But the approach is obstructed by a bar at the mouth of the chief branch in the 
delta, which has usually scaixely more than thres feet of water. The other 
branches are also inaccessible to vessels of large draught, and the whole of the low- 
lying alluvial tract is a region of swamps and backwaters fringed with mangroves, 
almost as dangerous to approach from the land as from the sea. So unhealthy is 
the district that the inlet enclosed by the long promontorj' of Tres Puntas, pro- 
jecting north-west towards Amatique Buy, is called Hospital BaJ^ This inlet 
is connected with the main stream by a partly artificial channel ; but the true 
port of the fluvial basin lies, not in the delta, but immediately beyond it at the 
foot of the last spurs of the Sierra del Mico. Here is St. Thomas's Bay, the best 
haven along the whole Atlantic seaboard of Central America. After rounding 
a dangerous sandbank large vessels penetrate through a narrow channel into a 
circular basin enclosed by an amphitheatre of wooded hills. Here is ample space 
for hundreds of ships in a perfectly sheltered sheet of water with a superficial area 
of six square miles and depths ranging from 14 to 30 feet. 

Like that of Motagua, the Polochic basin is entirelj' comprised within 
Guatemalan territory. Although a smaller stream, it is navigable by flat- 
bottomed boats for about an equal distance from its mouth. Rising in the Cohan 
mountains, which here form the divide towards the Usumacinta valley, the 
Polochic flows almost due east to its junction with the Cahabon, which descends 
from the Sierra de Chama to its left bank below Teleman. Like the Motagua it 
ramifies through several arms at, its mouth, where numerous shoals bar all access 
except to light flat-bottomed craft. The delta, however, lies not on the Atlantic, 
but on an inland sea known as the Golfo Dulce or Izabal Lagoon. This "golfo " 
certainly appears to be a lacustrine basin rather than a marine inlet, for it 
has not the slightest trace of salt, and during the floods its level rises about 40 
inches. It has a mean depth of from 35 to 40 feet, and as it has an area of 
over '2o0 miles, it might easily accommodate all the navies of the world but for 
the shallow channel through which it communicates with the sea. 

Towards its north-east extremity the current, elsewhere imperceptible, begins 
to be felt ; its banks, here low and swampy, gradually converge, and the Golfo 
Dulce becomes the Rio Dulce, whose depth falls in some places to ten or twelve 
feet. Lower down the water grows more and more brackish, and the Rio Dulce 
enters another basin, whose saline properties betray its marine origin. Below the 
Golfete or " Little Gulf," as this basin is called, the banks again grow higher, 
developing cliffs and escarpments, where the lianas, twining round the branches of 
great forest trees, fall in festoons down to the stream. During ebb-tide the water 

21 G 


flows in :i swift current seawards through a rocky gorge about 600 feet deep, 
but with scareeh- six feet at the bar. From this bar to the Polochic delta there 
is a clear waterway of about GO miles navigable by schooners. 

North of the Golfo Dulce and its sti-aits the only important river is the 
Sar.stun, whose lower course has been chosen as the frontier towards British 
Honduras. Farther north the quadrilateral space comprised between Tabasco, 
Yucatan and Belize is drained partly by the Usumxcinti, and partly by the Bios 
Mopnn and Hondo, leaving only a few lakes dotted over the northern savannas 
with no outflow. The largest of these is Lake Itzal, so named from the Itzas, a 
Yucatan nation which took refuge on its shores in the fifteenth century. It is 

Fig. 02. — Golfo Dulce and the Lowek JIoiAGri 

Scale I : l,7r'0 '"^"l. 


10 to .iO 

50 Fatlioms 
and upwards, 

CO .Miles. 

also called Peten, or the " Island," from an isolated hill where the immigrants 
founded their first settlement. Peten has the form of an irregular crescent, with its 
convex side facing north-westwards, and is divided into two basins by a peninsula 
projecting from its south side. Enclosed between low limestone banks, the lake 
rises several yards during the rains, while in some places it has a normal depth 
of over 180 feet. Some of the creeks, however, are shallow enough to develop a 
rich growth of waterlilies, whose seeds in times of scarcity are ground and 
kneaded to a sort of bread which is astringent but little nutritive. Peten is at 
present a closed basin, but other lacustrine depressions scattered over the savannas 
appear to have formerly connected it on one side with the San Pedro affluent of 
the Usumacinta, on the other with the Rio Hondo, which flows to Honduras Bay. 


Climate, Fi.nitA, Faixa. 

Tlie distribution of the climates in vertical zones of temperature is far more 
clearly marked in the southern parts of Guatemala than in Mexico itself. 
The regular ramjDart of mountains which dominate the Guatemalan seaboard 
presents almost exactly the same geographical conditions throughout its whole 
extent, and here the zones of hot, temperate, and cold lands follow uniformly 
from base to summit, each indicated by its special types of vegetation. Above 
the cold zone coinciding with the edge of the plateau there is even distinguished 
a " frozen zone," that of the higher summits snow-clad for a short period of the 
year. This highest zone is uninhabitable, and the same might almost be said of 
the lowest, especially for European settlers. Here the mean temperature varies 
from 77° to 82° Fahr., while the glass often rises even to 10i°. 

The two intermediate temperate and cold zones, the former suitable for the 
cultivation of the banana, sugar-cane, and coffee, the latter for cereals and 
European fruits, comprise by far the greater part of the Guatemalan territory, 
and here the populations of European or mixed origin can be acclimatised. The 
temperate zone especially, which lies mainly between the altitudes of 1,600 and 
5,000 feet, occupies a collective area of considerable extent. In other words 
Guatemala is_, relativelj' speaking, far more favourably situated than Mexico for 
the cultivation of economic plants. Its ch;iracteristic growth is the banana, the 
alimentary plant in a pie- eminent sense, which here flourishes throughout the 
whole of the temperate zone. 

Lying, like Mexico, within the range of the trade winds, Guatemala is 
exposed especially to the north-east currents, which pass between the cones 
of the volcanoes down to the Pacific seaboard. But these regular currents are 
frequentlj' deflected from their normal course, and then the fierce iioiies sweep 
from the uplands down to the low-lj'ing valleys. 

The rainfall is verj' unevenly distributed over the different regions of 
Guatemala. The Atlantic slope is natural!}' the most abundantly watered, the 
prevailing wind being charged with the vapours from the Gulf of Mexico and 
Caribbean Sea. " It rains thirteen months in the year," say the inhabitants of 
Izabal. But the Pacific seaboard has also its share of humidity, and here the 
temperate lands more especially receive copious downpours. Here the wet season 
lasts .six or even seven months, with a short interrui^tion in the month of August, 
due to the fact that the cortege of clouds has followed the sun farther north 
towards the Tropic of Cancer. Even during the dry season few months pass 
without some rain, the effect of which on the growth of vegetation is magical on 
these rich volcanic lands. Fogs also are by no means rare at this period, and 
contribute to support plant life. The mean rainfall has been recorded only for 
the capital, where it amounts to 54 inches On the lower slopes of the temperate 
zone it certainly exceeds SO inches, while on the Quezaltenango Altos it must fall 
short of 20 inches. 

In its natural history Guatemala resembles the conterminous j)rovinces of 


East Mexico — Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatan. In its forests are intcrnjingled 
various species of oaks and conifers, some of the latter growing to a heiglit of 
loO or 160 feet. In many regions the traveller might fancy himself transported 
to the pine-groves of the Landes in Gascony, or else to the Pomeranian woodlands. 
On the low-lying Pacific seaboard the bamboo grows in dense thickets to a height 
of 100 feet; these thickets, which wave in the breeze like tall cornfields, are 
traversed by narrow, gloomy galleries made by wild beasts. 

As in Tabasco the giant of the Guatemalan forests is the ceiha, or pyramidal 
bombax. In the neighbourhood of their settlements the Indians of the plateaux 
and escarpments generally clear a large space round the ceiba to give it ample 
room for the development of its wide-spreading branches and rear its majestic 
form more imposingly above the throng of worshippers at its feet. As in south 
Mexico the whole surface of the forest is interwoven with the coils of lianas 
gliding snake-like from tree to tree. 

In Vera Paz the enclosures are often formed by a species of arborescent 
thistle, which grows rapidly and interlaces its stems so as to form a compact 
greyish wall carpeted with mosses and ferns intermingled with the large foliage 
of the plant. The forests of the hot zones near Katalhulen, as well as those of 
the Polochic, have become famous for their magnificent orchids. Another 
remarkable Guatemalan jilant is well known to the Indians for the heat emitted 
by its efflorescence at the moment of fertilisation. Hence its rame of Jior de la 
cakiitura ("fever flower") given to it by the Spaniards. 

The tapir, peccary, and a few other mammals inhabit the Guatemalan forests, 
where, however, no special forms have been discovered except amongst the lower 
orders of animals. The alligator and some thirty species of fishes in Lake Peten 
were unknown before Morelet's expedition. Here also has been found a species 
of trigonocephalus, which completes the smes of these dangerous snakes between 
South Carolina and Guiana. 

Vera Paz is the earthlj' paradise of ornithologists ; here is still met the 
wonderful qiiezal, or " resplendent couroucou " [trogon. 2>nroriiin.<<, pliaromacnm 
paradmeus), a member of the gallinaceous faniil}', with an emerald-green silky 
plumage dashed with a golden lustre above, with a lovely purple hue below, and 
a tail fully three feet long. The Guatemalan republic has chosen this bird as the 
national emblem. 


The common Guatcmalo-Mexican frontier traverses regions whose populations 
on both sides have the same origin and speak the same languages. Thus the Ma j'as 
of Yucatan are found also in the Peten district ; east and west of the Usuraacinta 
the Lacandons have their camping grounds ; Chols, Tzendals, and Mames occupy 
the heights and slopes both of the Guatemalan Altos and of Soconusco. But 
central and east Guatemala are inhabited by ethnical groups distinct from thcis3 
of the Mexican republic. Various attempts iiave been made to classify these 
heterogeneous populations according to tlicir afhuities, usages, and languages ; but 



the work begun by Erinton, Stoll, and others is still far from complete, and 
meantime the tribes are dis;ippearing, and several languages spoken down to the 
present century are now extinct. East of the meridian of Lake Amatitlan, nearly 

Kg. 93 — Landscape nc Socth Guatemala— Bameoo Jungle. 

^J^«fi* ! !s"*^«=^ *2S=^^ 

all the Indians have already become Ladinos, and no longer speak their priiniiive 
tongues. Nererthele-'ss, according to Stoll, as many as eighteen native languages 
were still current within the limits of the republic in 1883. 

The Aztecs, the dominant indigtnous element in .Anahuac. are represented in 


Guatemala only by the single grouiD of the Pipils, -who dwell, not in the neigh- 
bourhood of the Mexican frontier as might have been supposed, but in the eastern 
provinces near others of the same race, settled in Salvador. At the time of the 
conquest the Pij^ils occupied a far more extensive territory than at present. But 
their domain has been gradually encroached upon, not only by Spanish, but also 
by the spread of other native- tongues, such as the Cakchiquel and Pokoman. At 
present the Pipil forms two separate enclaves, one at Salaraa and on both banks 
of the Motagiia (Rio Grande), the other at Escuintla and Cuajiniquilapa in the 
Guacalate and Michatoya basins. 

Some historians regard the Pijnls as a branch of the fugitive Toltecs who 
migrated southwards after the overthrow of their dominion by the Chichitnecs, and 
it is probable enough that such a migration may have taken place at some remote 
epoch. Juarros tells us that Pipil means " Children," and that the people were so 
called by the Mexicans because they were unable to speak the Nahuatl language 
correctly. But according to another interpretation the Pipils of Guatemala and 
of the other Central American republics represent the ancient Pipiltins, that is, 
the " superior " or " better," the nobler branch of the Aztec family. This name 
they are supposed to have themselves assumed when they settled amongst the less 
civilised populations south of Mexico. 

The great majority of the Guatemalan Indians belong to the same .stock as that 
of the Huaxtecs in the Vera Cruz uplands, and of the Mayas dominant in Yucatan. 
All the populations speaking various forms of the common language are collectively 
called Maya-Quiche, from the two most important members of the group, the 
Mayas of the Yucatan plains and the Quiches of the Guatemalan plateaux. 
Within the limits of the latter state the Mayas, properly so-culled, occupy an 
extensive territory, comprising the Petcn district and nearly the whole region 
bounded southwards by the Pasion and Mopan rivers. In this region the Maj'a 
nation is represented by the Itzas, one of the very purest members of the family. 
Thanks to their isolation in the petcii, or " island," of the great steppe lake, the 
Itzas were long able to preserve both their political independence and the puritj' of 
their race and national usages. The Lacandons, who dwell farther west, between 
Lake Peten and the Usumacinta river, are also a pure IMaya people, although 
frequently called " Caribs " by the Spaniards and even by the Mayas themselves. 
Like the Itzas, they have maintained their independence, and although admitting 
strangers into their country, they yield obedience to no one, and still regard them- 
selves as masters of the land. However, they are but a small group, scarcely 
numbering more than 4,000 or 5,000, according to the estimate of travellers who 
have visited them. They are described as an anicniic people, "flabby and soft," 
which should perhajjs be attributed to their mode of life passed entirely in the 
humid atmosphere of dense forests. 

The Mopans, who are met in scattered groups south of Lake Peten and in the 
upper valley of the Rio Mopan (Belize river), are also independent Mayas, 
although their language is said to differ from that of the Itzas and Lacandons. 
Their southern neighbours, the Chols, that is, " Men," who roam the steppe 


between tlio Usumacinta and the Golfo Dulce, belong to the same widespread Maya 
family. They were met on his expedition to Honduras by Fernan Cortes, who 
was able to converse with them through Dona Marina, she being acquainted ^^ ith 
the Chontal dialect. The Chols appear to have been one of the most civilised 
nations in the region now known as Guatemala, for in their territory are situated 
the fine ruins of Quirigua. But they are greatly reduced in numbers, and both 
people and language seem to be dying out. 

Owing to the former slave-raiding expeditions of the Spaniards, the whole 
Atlantic seaboard, from Yucatan to Xicaragua, is almost entirely destitute of a 
native Indian population. After the extermination of the Espanola and Cuban 
natives, and before their places could be supplied by negroes imported from Africa, 
the planters of those islands sought to recruit their gangs by introducing " Caribs," 
that is, Indians of all races, whether in the islands or on the mainland. These 
so-called Caribs were accused of cannibalism and of every other crime under the 
sun, and could consequently be enslaved with a free conscience. Man-hunting 
expeditions were im^dertaken, especially along the coast between Capes Catoche and 
Gracias-a-Dios ; these lands were completely depopulated in a very few decades, 
and when no more victims remained, the raiders had to ascend the rivers and lay 
waste their valleys in search of fresh captives. It is evident from Bemal Diaz' 
descriptions that at the time of Cortes' expedition to Honduras the shores of the 
Golfo Dulce were, in many places, lined with settlements and plantations. 

South of the Choi camping-grounds, which are still met in the upper valley of 
the Rio de la Pasion, the district about the headwaters of the Polochic is occupied 
by the Quekchi and Pokonchi, who form a special branch of the Maya family. 
Their territory was formerly known by the name of Teztdutlau, that is, " Land of 
War," because the Spaniards made frequent expeditions against the natives ; 
without, however, succeeding in reducing them. Their submission was, in fact, 
brought about by the celebrated Bishop of Chiapas, Bartholomew de las Casas, 
and the Dominican missionaries who soon acquired unlimited power over the 
people. Then the territory changed its name from " Land of War " to Vera Paz, 
"True Peace." But although they thus became the voluntary serfs of the Domi- 
nican friars, the Quekchi and Pokonchi were, after all, but outward converts, and 
their usages still recall those of pagan times. 

One of the chief indigenous nations is that of the Pokomans, in whose territory 
the present capital of the state has been founded. They are also one of the best- 
known Guatemalan tribes, for the Indians of the large settlement of Mixco, who 
suj)ply the capital with fuel and provisions, are all Pokomans. They are of Maya 
stock, and display the same remarkable power of passive resistance and tenacity 
as other branches of that race. They have gradually encroached on the Pipil 
domain, dividing that nation into two separate section; by conquering the region 
of the main Guatemalan waterparting. 

The (iuiches were, with the Aztecs and the Mayas, the most cultured inhabi- 
tants of Central America at the time of the conquest. At that epoch they were 
also a very numerous nation, the chronicles speaking of " several millions." They 


are now greatl}' reduced, though still occupying nearly the same territory as 
when Alvarado first attempted to subdue them. In certain districts, notably in 
that of Totonicapam, they still energetically resist tbe intrusion of the Spanish 
tongue, which, how3ver, as the officiil language, c:innot fail, sooner or later, to 
prevail in the towns, if not in the rural districts. The Quiche linguistic domain 
comprises especially the region of the Quezaltenango and Totonicupam Altos; 
but it also extends north and north east towards the upper Usuinacinta and 
Motao-ua basins, while southwards it re iches the sea along the Pacitic slope of the 
main range. For over sixty miles it holds the seaboard south of Rstalulheu and 
Mazatenango. Quiche, the language of the old rulers of the land, is one of the 
few American idioms which possess, if not a literature, at least some original 
documents. The Popol- Vuh, or " Book of History," written by an unknown 
native soon after the conquest, to replace another national history which had been 
lost, possesses great value for the study of Central American myths and legends. 
It was translated into Spanish at the beginning of the eighteenth century by the 
Dominican friar, Xiraeues, and afterwards edited, with a French translation, by 
Brasseur de Bourbourg. 

Cakchiquel, which is spoken on the plateau from Solola to Chimaltenango and 
Antigua, that is, in the zone comprised between the Quiche and Pokoraan domains, 
is, like Quiche, also a literary language. Brasseur do Bourbourg has described a 
document containing the history of the Cakchiquel nation from the creation of 
the world, and in several passages harmonising with the Popol- Yah. Cakchiquel, 
Quiche, and Tzutujil, whieh last is spoken in a small enclave south of Lake Atit- 
lan, are described by Spanish grammarians as the " three metropolitan languages," 
because each was at one time a court idiom current in a royal residence. All 
closeh' resemble each other, while the Mem, or Mame, differs greatly from Quiche, 
although also belonging to the same linguistic stock. This language of " Stam- 
merers," as it was called by the Quiches and Cakchiquels, because of the difhculty 
they had in understanding it, prevails throughout all the western districts of 
Huehuetenango and San Marcos, as well as in the Mexican provinces of Soconusco 
and Chiapas; it forms a distinct group with Ixil, Aguacatan, and perhaps some 
other dialects spoken by the little-known tribes of the upper Usumacinta basin. 

Nearly all the native languages current within the limits of Guatemala belong 
to the Maya stock. Besides those already mentioned, almost the only other 
exception is the Carib, which still survives amongst the fishers a>\d woodmen, who 
are descended from the West Indian Caribs removed by the English to the main- 
land at the close of the last century. Stoll has endeavoured to draw up a 
genealogical tree of the Maya languages, which is intended to show the order of 
succession in which the various members branched off from the parent stem. The 
Huaxtecan of Vera Cruz would appear to have become first detached, and it has 
diverged all the more that to the modifications introduced by time have been 
added those derived from a totally different environment surrounded by popula- 
tions of totallj^ distinct speech and usages. Then the pircntstem split into the 
two great Jfaya and (Juiche divisions, the former subsequently throwing off the 


Mexican branches (Tzcndul, Tzotzil and Choi), while Quiche ramified into the 
various Guatemalan subdivisions of Pokoman, Pokouchi, Cakchiquel and modern 
Quiche with Ixil and Mame. 

The pure Indians, who constitute over two- thirds of the whole population, 
differ little in their physical appearance, to whatever linguistic group thej- may 
belong. The Cakchiquels, who may be taken as typical Guatemalan Indians, are 
of average or low stature, but stoutly built, with clear eye, prominent cheekbones, 
large nose, firm mouth, black, lank hair, thick eyebrows, low forehead, somewhat 
depressed by the strap passed round the head to support their loads. They never 
grow grey, and preserve to old age their well-set dazzling white teeth and muscular 
frames, which never put on too much flesh. They are indefatigable walkers, and 
the women may be daily seen trudging to market, doing their three and a half 
miles an hour under loads of 90 to 110 pounds, with the baby perched on the hip. 
The Guatemalan Indians are much addicted to the practice of eating an edible 
earth of volcanic origin, of a j^ellowish-grey colour and strong smell, which is 
taken as an accompaniment or appetiser. Reference is alrec;"dy made to this habit 
in the Popol- Vuh. Christians going on pilgrimages also eat little earthen figures, 
which they obtain at the holy shrines, and which are supposed to heal all mala- 
dies. Gage was acquainted with two Creole ladies, who ate " handfuls of earth " 
to brighten the countenance. The natives age rapidly, doubtless owing to their 
extremely monotonous existence, unrelieved by any incidents which might stimu- 
late curiosity or afford food for reflection. After the age of thirty they have 
passed through all their experiences, and nothing further rt mains to be learned. 

Musical gatherings are greatly enjoyed ; the least pretext, such as the death 
of a child, which has become an angel in heaven, serves to get up festivities, to 
which everybody is invited. The natives, and especially the Mayas of Peten, have 
a delicate ear for music, and in this respect are said to be supe rior to the Spaniards. 
The Itzas sing in perfect tune, and even vary their parts with much originality ; 
according to Morelet their songs are lively and bright, very different from the 
plaintive melody of the Ladinos. The same traveller believed in the native origin 
of several musical instruments, such as the c/iiriiiu'i/a, somewhat like a clarionet, 
and the marimba, a series of vertical wooden tubes formed of uneven calabashes, 
which are disposed like those of a reed-pipe, pierced at the lower extremity and half 
shut by a thin membrane ; its notes are said to be more powerful than those of the 
piano. The marimba, however, is not an Indian but an African invention ; it is 
widely known in the Niger and Congo basins and as far south as Kaffraria. Its 
name is of liantu origin, and it was doubtless introduced into Central America by 
the African slaves. 

Although more fervent Catholics than the Ladinos, the Indians have none the 
less preserved the old religion under a new form. In many places dolls repre- 
senting the gods of their forefathers are hidden under the altars of the churches, 
and by this device both divinities are simultaneously worshipped. When kneeling 
before Saint Michael they light two tapers, one for the dragon, the other for the 
archangel. An old deity corresponds to each personage of the Christian religion, 



the suu to God the Father, the moon to the Madonna, the stars to the tutelar 
saints. Most of the Indians think there are two gods, one of whom, the D/o-v de 
la Monttthd, " God of the Forest," attends specially to the aborigines, taking no 
notice either of the Ladinos or of the whites. He is often called Diuho dd Palo, 
" Lord of the Tree," because he dwells in the ceibas, and to the foot of these 
gigantic trees in the forest clearings are brought the firstfruits of the harvest 

Fig. 94. — Natite Populations op Gxiatemala. 
Scale 1 : 4,500,000. 


West oF Greenwict- 

CO Miles. 

and the chase. The earth also is wor.shipped, but feared as representing the prin- 
ciple of evil. 

In every village the natives are grouped in coiifradiux, or " brotherhoods," 
which are evidently organised on the model of the old Aztec calpuUL Each has 
its tutelar saint, who is feted with much pomp, the male and female " captains " 
collecting the money required for the costumes, mu-ic, tajjers and decorations. 
Sometimes this costly worship plunges the whole community into debt for months 
together, but the saint is only all the more highly esteemed. 

Mimetic dances represent mv-thological or historical dramas of Indian origin, 


but since the arrival of the Spaniards more or less modified by tne addition of new 
legends. Thus in the " Moors' dance " the chief personages are Charlemagne and 
Tamerlane. There are also the " negroes' ball," and even the " dance of the 
conquest," the performers on these occasions -wearing wooden masks and fantastic 
garbs of leaves or herbage, and exciting themselves to a pitch of frenzy. Such 
is the passion and fury of these Bacchanalian dancers that one easily realises the 
ancient religious ceremonies, when the devotees fell on the palpitating bodies of 
the victims and devoured their flesh. 

Conscious of the strength derived from numbers, and even miadful of the evils 
brought on them by servitude, the Indians have kept aloof from the Ladinos, and 
have often taken advantage of the local revolutions to rise i:i revolt against their 
oppressors. In 1838, an Indian army, under Eafael Carrera, penetrated victoriously 
into the capital, proclaiming that they had been " raised up by the Virgin Mary 
to kill the whites, foreigners and heretics." But in their very triumphs they had to 
feel the ascendency of the more civilised Ladinos, with whom they are brought 
yearly more and more into contact. As the term "white" is sometimes applied 
to the Ladinos, who are all of mixed origiu, many of the rural populations are in 
the same way regarded as pure Indians though they also have a strain of foreign 
blood. On the plantations crossings continually take place between the ruling class 
and their serfs, and the black slaves originally introduced by the Dominican friars 
to cultivate their lands have also contributed to this mixture of races. Pure 
negroes can scarcely any longer be found in Guatemala, although their metre or 
less modified features may be recognised in whole pomdations. 


The Guatemalan population is grouped chiefly in the cold and temperate lands 
of the Pacific coast range. All towns of any importance are situated on the high 
grounds between the coastlands and the upper Motagua and Usumacinta valleys. 
Near the Mexican frontier the first town on the plateau is San Marcos, which lies 
in the cold zone on an eminence whence is commanded a wide prospect of the sur- 
rounding coffee plantations. On a neighbouring plain stands the native town of 
Sail Pedro Sacalepeqncs, whose inhabitants no longer speak Mame, the old language 
of West Guatemala. By a recent decree they have been declared Ladinos, which 
has the consequence of allowing them more freedom in the administration of their 
local affairs. The natural outlet of San Marcos and its plantations is the Ocas 
estuary some 50 miles towards the south-west. On this part of the coast the plains 
are vast low-lying savannas, often under water, dotted over with permanent 
lagoons and forest tracts. In April the traders and planters from Soconusco, in 
Z^Iexico, and from west Guatemala assemble at this place for the transaction of 
business. The Ocos estuary was Ions resarded as the frontier between Mexico 
and Guatemala. West of the port, which is open to foreign trade, the frontier 
station has been fixed at the village of Ayuila, a place of pilgrimage much fre- 
quented by the Soconusco Indians. 




About 30 miles south-east of Siin Marcos, Quezaltenanrjo, second capital of tlie 
republic and chief town of the Altos, occupies an extensive space, 7,740 feet above 
the sea, on a hilly plateau south of which rises the still smoking Cerro Quemado. 
In 1838 this place was the capital of a state which comprised the three eastern 
provinces of Totonicapara, Quezaltenango, and Solola. The houses are built of 
lava blocks quarried at the foot of the volcano. The small industries are repre- 
sented by woollen and cotton weavers, dyers and leather-dressers. A speciality 
of the Quiche artisans is the preparation of gold-embroidered mantles, feather hats 
and the masks used by the natives in their dances, processions, and scenic per- 

Fig. 95. — The Axtos Region. 

Scale 1 : 1,100,000. 

•-^ -^^J- ~h>^' Jf^ 

.^f-J,-^ -I/rf^ ,Sf» ,p, 

9r50' ' V e-it oh Greenwich 

. 18 Miles. 

formancos Probably from this feather industry the city took its Mexican name of 
Quezaltenango, which means " Green-Feather Town," not, as is often asserted, 
" Town of the Quezal Birds," a species which is not found in the district. In the 
capital of the Altos region reside most of the great landowners, whoso estates 
cover the Costa Guca slopes facing the P.icific ; here also dwell the traders and the 
moneylenders, who are the real masters of the land. 

They prefer this salubrious place to Rctalhuku, which, although lying much 
nearer to tbe zone of plantations, is one of the most unhealthy towns in Guatemala. 
Eetalhulcu, that is, the " Signal," stands at an elevation of not more than 1,360 
feet, that is, in the very heart of the hot lands under a climate with a mean tem- 
perature of 82° to 84*^ Fahr. It is a very ancient market, probably founded by the 
Quiche kings to procure a sufficient supply of cacao and cotton. Cacao, which 


was formerly the chief crop, has recently been replaced by coffee and the alimen- 
tary plants required by the hands employed on the plantations. Hence the neigh- 
bouring port of Champerico, which is connected by rail with Retalhuleu, now exports 
little except coffee. Being a hotbed of fever in the rainy season, «Champerieo is 
scarcely inhabited except in the dry period, and especially in April and Xo%ember, 
when the skippers, nearly all from the United States, come for their cargoes of 

Totonicapam stands on the same plateau as Quezaltenango, twelve mUes more 
to the north-east, but in a colder climate, at an altitude of 8,200 feet, that is, 460 
higher than its neighbour and 660 higher than Mexico. Its inhabitants are chiefly 
Quiche Indians, who still mostly speak the national language, and who, so far from 
considering themselves inferior to the Ladinos, constitute, on the contrary, a sort of 
local aristocracy. Many, in fact, descend from the old " caciques " of Tlaxcala who 
accompanied Alvarado on his expedition, and who in return for their services 
received special class privileges together with exemption from taxation. The best 
dwellings in the town belong to these Tlaxcalans. Like the neighbouring capital, 
Totonicapam is an industrial centre, producing textiles, earthenware, furniture, 
guitars, marimbas, and other musical instruments. Sahraja, a few miles to the 
south-west, although now an obscure village, was at one time a place of some note. 
It was the first settlement founded by Alvarado in 1524, and its church, dedicated 
to the Virgin of Victory, became a famous place of pilgrimage. Afterwards most 
of its inhabitants removed to Quezaltenango. Between these two towns flows the 
Olintepec brook, called by the natives XiquigU, or " Bloody River," to comme- 
morate the day when it flowed with the blood of thousands of Quiches massacred 
by Alvarado in the decisive battle which made him master of the land. 

Another historic place is Santa Cruz Quiche, or simply Quiche, which still bears 
the name of the nation whose capital it was, but which is now almost exclusively 
inhabited by Ladinos. It stands at an altitude of 6,220 feet, about 25 miles north- 
east of Totonicapam on a plain of the temperate zone watered by the headstreams 
of the Rio Grande (Motagua). This plain is enclosed by deep barrancas separat- 
ing it from the terraces on which stood the monuments of Utatlnn, residence of the 
ancient Quiche kings. Surrounded by precipices over 1,300 feet high on the soiith 
side, the terrace of the Acropolis presents a nearly level surface for about a third 
of a mile in all directions, and is connected w^th the neighbouring heights by a 
precipitous track which was formerly defended by strong fortresses. The palace 
of Utatlan, said by the chroniclers to have rivalled that of Montezuma in size, 
was spacious enough to contain a whole population of women, servants and 
soldiers ; the school contained over 5,000 children educated at the charge of the 
sovereign, and when this potentate mustered his forces on the terrace to oppose 
the advance of the Spaniards, he is said to have passed in review as many as 72,000 
combatants. The pyramid known as the Sacrificatorio still presents a somewhat 
regular contour, and preserves the traces of steps. Beyond the citadel, the slopes 
of the hiUs, the surrounding heights and plains are strewn for a vas!^ space with the 
ruins of edifices now for the most part overgrown with vegetation. The excava- 



tions made at various times have brought to light statues, bas-reliefs, and much 
decorative work. South-eastwards on the verge of the plateau stands the healthy 
town of San Toiiins Chichicadenango, which is still inhabited by the descendants 
of the ancient Quiche nobility : it was here that the Dominican, Xinienez, made 
the lucky find of the Popol-Vuh, or "Book of Myths." 

West of Quiche, the chief headstreams of the Motagua intermingle with those 
of the Usumacinta, in the department of Huehuetenango, one of the most sparsely 
peopled in the republic. IIiiehHctcnango {Guegucfenango), that is, " City of the 
Ancients," has also replaced an old Indian town, Zakuica, ov "White Earth," 
which is said to have been the capital of the Mame nation. The modern town 
lies in tha temperate zone, and in a fertile district yielding both European aad 
tropical fruits, and watered by a stream descending from the north-west to the 
Grijalva. In the neighbourhood is the flourishing town of Chiantin, whose 
convent, enriched by the offerings of multitudes of pilgrims, was formerly one of 
the wealthiest in the New World. Argentiferous lead-mines, now no longer 
worked, also contributed to the opulence of the Dominican friars of this district. 

On the upper Chixoy, which is the m liu headstream of the Usumacinta, the 
only town is the Quiche settlement of Sacapu/as, which crowns an eminence 3,840 
feet high, on the right bank, a short distance below the Rio Negro and Rio Blanco 
confluence. Immediately below the town numerous thermal springs flow directly 
from the granite cliffs, at temperatures varying from 104° to 158° Fahr. They 
are both saline and bitter, somewhat like seawater in taste, which is due to the 
simultaneous presence of sodium chloride and sulphate of magnesia. Other 
springs flowing farther east, although less saline, are more utilised by the natives 
in the preparation of salt. The chief salt pan is at present that of Mngdalenci, 
about ten miles north-west of Sacapulas, beyond some steep intervening cliffs. 
Here two copious streams, one yielding over twenty gallons a second, and contain- 
ing four per cent, of pure salt, flow from the foot of a hill, which was formerly 
forest- clad, but which, since the opening of the works, has become completely 

Sulamn, capital of the department of Baja Vera Paz, is also situated in the 
upper Usumacinta basin, on an eastern tributary of the Chixoy, 2,865 feet 
above sea-level, consequently quite within the tropical zone. San Gcronhno, an 
old Dominican establishment a few miles east of Salama, has become the centre 
of a flourishing sugar plantation, the produce of which is exported far and wide, 
despite the difficult communications. This Vera Paz region, which, for several 
years after the arrival of the Spaniards was known as the " Land of War," contains 
numerous ruins of large cities, now overgrown with rank vegetation. Purblo 
Viejo, or the " Old Town," which stands on the slopes above Sm Geronitno, 
occupies the site of the ancient Xtibabal. Rahinal lies farther west on an affluent 
of the Chixoy, surrounded by banana, orange, and sugar plantations, in a district 
dotted over with numerous old sejiulchral mounds. Northwards are seen the 
ruins of a fortress, and about six miles to the north-west the remains of Nim- 
Pokom, formerly a capital of the Pokoman nation, and traditionally said to have 



contaiaed 100,000 iuhabitants. The ruius occupy a considerable space on tbe 
crest of a hill ; but the Pokoman language has been driven farther east by Quiche, 
the idiom of the people who, before the arrival of the Spaniards, had gradually 
acquired the political ascendency. Nearly all the summits in the Eabinal 
district are crowned with ancient strongholds, now overgrown by a luxuriant 
vegetation, while the Pakalah valley, facing the confluence of the Rabinal and 
Chixoy rivers, is occupied by the temples, palaces, and citadels of Cahuinal, form- 
ing the finest group of ruins in Tera Paz. 

The towns situated on the plateaux and heights to the east of Quezaltenango 
and Totonicapam, although still standing at a great elevation above the sea, are 
not regarded as belonging to the region of the Altos. Solola, which has given 

Fig. 96. — Solola axd Lake Atitlax. 


^ --r^/- ' ' 


its name to one of the departments of the republic, lies at an elevation of 7,000 
feet on a terrace terminating towards Lake Atitlan in a rocky peak which rises 
to a height of nearly 2,000 feet. Two deep ravines on the right and left sides 
give to the terrace the aspect of a superb promontory, entirely detached from 
the rest of the plateau except on the north side. Beyond the last houses of 
Solola is seen the rampart of walls and huge blocks piled up and cemented with 
an argillaceous mortar without apparent tenacity. Thus the vast ruin seems as 
if about to fall with a crash into the blue lake, which is enclosed on the north by 
steep cliffs, on the south by gently-sloping green banks, rising in a succession of 
graceful curves towards the Atitlan volcano. A path cut at sharp angles in the 
tufas and rocks of the escarpment leads from Solola to the margin of the lake, 
and to the village of Paiiajachef, whose name is sometimes extended to the basin 


itse'f. Solola, ancieut capital of the Cakchiquels, and still iuhabited by the 
descendants of these proud and industrious Indians, bears also the name of Tecpan- 
Atitlati, or " Communal Palace of Atitlan," in contradistinction to the Afiilan of 
the Ladinos. This place lies on the opposite or south side of the lake, and was 
formerly capital of the Tzutujil nation, whose language still survives in the 

An easy pass, lying between the Atitlan and San Pedro volcanoes, leads down 
to the rich plantations of Costa Grande, which cover the lower slopes of the 
mountains. But Tecojate, the nearest seaport, being too dangerous for shipping, 
the produce is mostly exported through Champerico. A road partly accessible 
to wheeled traffic runs from the shores of Lake Atitlan through Mazntenango to 
Ectalhuleii. The coffee grown in the Mazatenango district is one of the most 
appreciated in the European market. 

On the lofty piLite lus separating the basin of Lake Atitlan from that of the 
Rio Mofagua are seen the remains of one of the numerous cities which bore the 
name of Quauldeinalan, or Guatemala, a name afterwards extended to the whole 
region. The city, which was the capital of the Cakchiquels, and which they 
called Iximche, has a circumference of " three leagues." It stood on a terrace 
encircled on all sides by precipices, and accessible onlj^ by one approach, whose 
two gateways were each closed by a single block of obsidian. The Spanish 
conqueror Alvarado made it his residence in 152-i, and gave it the name of 
Santiago. A second Guatemala, standing on a terrace near the Iximche plateau, 
is distinguished by the epithet of Tecpan-Gantcmala, or " Communal Palace of 
Guatemala." About eighteen miles farther east, on a terrace overlooking the 
Motagua valley, are seen the still more famous ruins of Mixco. 

Cliiinaltenango is at present the capital of the department of like name, a region 
roughly coinciding with the ancient domain of the Cakchiquels. It stands at a height 
of about 6,000 feet exactly on the waterparting between the Atlantic and Pacific 
near the northern extremity of the chain of volcanoes which terminates southwards 
in the Fuego peak. For trading purposes, it lies in the zone served by the railway 
which runs from Guatemala to Escuintla and San Jose. Between Chimaltenango 
and Guatemala, but nearer to the latter place, is situated the present Indian 
village of Mixco, to which were removed the captives taken at the surrender of the 
old city of this name. The first Guatemala of Spanish foundation, which succeeded 
the two others of Cakchiquel origin, is the place now known as Ciudad Vieja, or 
" Old Town." It was founded in 1527 by Alvarado, in the picturesque Admolonga 
valley on the banks of the Rio Pensativo, which flows through the Guacalate to 
the Pacific. It would have been difficult to choose a more delightful situation 
with a more equable and milder climate, a more fertile and better-watered soil, 
or more romantic scenery, than this upland valley between the Fuego and Agua 
volcanoes. Yet the city lasted only seventeen years. In 1541, after long rains, 
the edge of the flooded crater of Mount Agua, dominating the rising town, suddenly 
gave way, and nearly all the inhabitants, amongst whom was Alvarado's wife, Dona 
Bcatriz Sin Ventura, the "Hapless," were either drowned or crushed beneath the 



ruins. Nothing remained except a magnificent tree, under whose shade the 
Spaniards had assembled before the building of the city. Ilts site is at present 
occupied by a few little houses lost amid the surrounding plantations. To avoid 
another such disaster — which, however, could not have been repeated in the same 
■way — it was decided to remove the town farther north, and in 1542 Alvarado 
supervised the foundation of a second capital — Santiago de hs Caballeros la Nueva, 
the " new," but now called Antigua, the " ancient," to distinguish it from the 
modern Guatemala. The city flourished to such an extent that in a few j^ears it 
became the most populous place in Central America, and this despite a succession. 

Fig. 97. — SircCESsrTE Dispiacesients of Guateiuxa. 

Scale 1 : 750,000- 

k-:: , 

3 0"- 







12 Miles. 

of storms, floods, earthquakes, and epidemic*. Its inhabitants, remarked Gage, 
dwell between " two mountains which hold their ruin in suspense : the Agua 
volcano threatens them with the deluge, and Fuego opens to them one of hell's 
gates." The people had many a time made every preparation for flight, and 
then, the danger over, had done nothing but repair their dwellings, when nearly 
all the buildings were overthrown by the terrific earthquakes of 1773. 

At last it was decided to select a third site for the capital, and choice was 
made of the hamlet of Ermita on the elevated Las Vacas plateau, about 25 miles 
farther to the north-east. The work of reconstruction began immediately after 
the disaster that had overtaken Antigua, but the official transfer was not made till 
the vear 1779. The first house of Guatemahi, the hacienda de la Virffen, still 
exists, aud is pointed out to strangers as a historic monument. Nevertheless, 


Antigua was never completely abandoned, and it now ranks for size as tlie fiflli 
city of the republic. The population even continues to increase, its thermal waters 
attract numerous invalids, the inhabitants of Guatemala have their country resi- 
dences hei'e, and many of the demolished structures have been rebuilt. 

This third Guatemala, at present the largest city of Central America, lies on a 
gentle slope in a depression of the plateau about 5,000 feet above the sea on the 
divide between the two oceans. Guatemala is dominated by a little porjjhj'ry 
eminence, the Cerro del Carmen, where stands the old hermitage, whence the place 
takes the nams of Ermita still in use amongst the Cakchiquels. From this knoll 
a view is commanded of the whole city, which covers a considerable space. The 
surrounding landscape is unattractive owing to the absence of trees on the scrubby 
watershed of Las Vacas, or the " Cows," which throughout the Spanish occupation 
has been used as a cattle ranche. But the vast panorama stretching bej'ond this 
district, and limited southwards bj' the two lofty volcanic cones, presents a superb 
prospect : no other capital occupies a more marked central and commanding position 
over the region sloping in all directions at its feet. Guatemala, which is laid out 
with the perfect regularity of a model city, presents in the interior a somewhat 
monotonous aspect. According to the original municipal regulations, inspired by 
the memor}' of the disasters that had overtaken Antigua, the builders were for- 
bidden to erect any houses exceeding 20 feet in height, and although this law is 
no longer observed, the churches having here as elsewhere their domes and belfries, 
most of the structures are very low, gaining horizontally what they lose vertic ill\'. 
Hence the population is somewhat scattered, except in the suburbs, where every 
narrow cabin is occupied by an Indian family. Tcjwards the middle of the century, 
when it was scarcely half its present size, travellers were wont to compare Guate- 
mala to a city of tombstones. Formerly all the large buildings were convents or 
churches. Now the Jesuits' establishment has been transformed to a national 
iastitution with an observatory. The city also possesses a polytechnic and other 
schools, learned societies, libraries and a museum. But the industries only suffice 
to supply the local wants, and provisions are mostly brought from the surrounding 
villages and plantations on the Pacific slope. Water is also brought from a con- 
siderable distance by the two aqueducts of Mixco and Pinula. On the plateau 
itself, covered with volcanic scoriae in some places to the depth of 600 or 700 feet, 
the rain water is rapidly absorbed, reappearing lower down in remote valleys. 
But to this very circumstance, preventing the accumulation of stagnant waters, 
Guatemala probably owes its complete immunity from the ravages of typhus. 
Still the place is not very healthy, and all maladies affecting the respiratory organs 
are aggravated by the clouds of dust raised by every breeze from the loose igneous 
soil. Hence most of the well-to-do citizens remove during the dry season to some 
umbrageous ru,ral retreat : the most fashionable places at present are the towns and 
villages situated farther south in the neighbourhood of Antigua. 

The railway descending from Guatemala towards the Pacific branches off from 
the valley of Antigua southwards in the direction of Lake Amatitlan, which it 
skirts on the west side. The town of Aitiatiflan, situated on the lake at the outlet 




of the Rio Michatoya, was formerly a large hacienda belonging to the Dominican 
friars, whose estate has become a vast plantation. During the flourishing days of 
the cochineal industry Amatitlan was a large place, with a population of 13,000 in 
1865. But the ruin of the old dyeing processes was fatal to the prosperity of the 

Eiscuiiitla, the ancient Ifzruintlan of the Nahuas, is the chief station between 
Amatitlan and the sea. This place, which before the Spanish conquest was a capital 
of the Pipil nation, lies quite within the hot zone at an altitude of not more 
than 1,450 feet above sea level. The well- watered volcanic district dominated 
by the Agua volcano is covered with an exuberant tropical vegetation, and before 

Fig. 98. — Thicklt-Inh^vbited Region of G-uatem-ila. 
Scale 1 : 3,500,UOU. 

^3.?^,^-^ ."^^ 

- 4^ 


^^^n"^ ,5 Re's TO- ^ / .'- -^^ yjiy-sifr'SflMi^' "'rw- '- *^ 


We t or (jr n 

60 Miles. 

the opening of the railway the wealthy citizens of Guatemala usually resorted 
during the winter months from December to February to Escuintla, which enjoys 
a milder climate than that of the plateaux. But its reputation as a rural retreat 
has beL'n impaired by the occasional outbursts of malignant fevers. In the same 
climatic and vegetable zone, and some 25 miles farther west, lies the large town of 
Santa Lucia Cozioiial/iKapa, which has become famous for the discovery of statues 
and curious bas-reliefs representing the '"King of the Vultures" [sarcoramphus 
})apii), in which the local Nahua artists display a talent at least equal to that of 
the Aztec and Maya sculptors. 8an Jose, terminal station of the railway on the 
Pacific, boasts of an ii-on pier projecting 1,000 feet seawards and provided with 


rails and cranes for the convenience of barges in connection with the shipping 
which has to ride at anchor over half a mile from the port. 

The department of Santa Rosa, conterminous on the east with Amatitlan 
and Escuintla, has no large towns ; its only trading station is CuaJiniqHiliijjd, 
which lies on the highway from San Salvador on the west side of the deep 
valley of the Rio de los Esclavos, so called from the " Slaves," that is, the Sinca 
people occupying its banks. The broad stream is here crossed by an eleven-arched 
brido-e, built in the seventeenth century by the Spaniards, and regarded as the 
finest monument of Central America. At the south-east extremity of the republic 
stretches the pastoral and agricultural department of Jutiapa, with chief town of 
like name. This region is yearly increasing in importance for its exports of live 
stock, indigo, and other produce to the neighbouring state. A few other centres 
of population have assumed a somewhat urban aspect in the eastern districts of 
Guatemala comprised within the Motagua basin. Such is Jalapa, which stands 
at an altitude of 5,600 feet in an upland valley of great fertility. The town of 
E'fqiiipiilas, also on an affluent of the Motagua, but near a pass leading down to the 
sources of the Lempa in San Salvador, is for the greater part of the year almost 
deserted, except by a scattered community of about 2,000 Indians. But on 
January 15th, feast of Nuestro Sefior de Esquipulas, a vast crowd throngs the 
streets and squares lined with temporary huts. The sick and afflicted bend the 
knee before a black effigy of Christ, with votive offerings of silver, carved 
wooden objects, feather and straw work. "With the religious feast is combined a 
fair, which down to the middle of the century, before the construction of the 
Panama railway, was frequented by pilgrim traders from Guatemala, Salvador, 
and even Mexico. As many as 80,000 persons, we are told by Juarros, were at 
times assembled on the plain of Esquipulas. Near the town stands one of the 
most magnificent churches in Central America. In a neighbouring southern 
valley are worked the Alotepeque silver mines, the most productive in the state. 

On the stream flowing from Esquipulas northwards to the Rio Motagua lie the 
towns of Chiqiiimala and Zacnpn, both capitals of departments of like name, and 
destined to acquire considerable importance in the future development of the 
country. They stand on the route to be followed by one of the projected railways 
between Guatemala and Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic. About midway between 
the two the Copan River joins that of Esquipulas after watering the plains of 
Comotan and Jocofan, formerly centres of the cochineal and indigo industries, now 
surrounded by rich tobacco plantations. About six miles below Zacaj)a the united 
streams fall into the Rio ^Motagua, which a little farther down becomes navigable 
for steamers, the heads of navigation being Gttalan during the floods and Barhasco 
in the dry season. In the forests of the Sierra del Mico north-east of the latter 
place, the site of an Indian city, whose very name has perished, is indicated 
by numerous pyramids and some fine ruins, especially carved monoliths, covered 
with hieroglyphics, human figures, turtles, armadillos and other animals. This 
group of monuments takes at present the name of Qairiijua, from a village five 
miles off. In 1839, when Stephens and Catherwood began their archaeological 


exploration of Central America, the very existence of these ruins was unknown, 
and travellers passed within a few miles of the place without hearing of them. 
At that time nothing was known of any abandoned Indian city in this district 
except Copan, which lay just hevond the Guatemalan frontier towards the source 
of the Cumotan. According to StoU, the Quirigua remains strike the spectator 
especially for their remarkable state of preservation, although not built of particu- 
larly hard materials and exposed to a destructive climate at once very damp and 
very hot ; moreover, the inundations of the Motagua occasionally reach the site 
of the ruins, and furrow the surface with ravines. Hence he infers that the 
monuments cannot date from any remote period, and perhaps were even in a 
perfect condition when the Spaniards made their appearance in the country. 
The slave-hunters, who wasted the land in quest of labourers for the Cuban and 
St. Domingo plantations, may have been the destroyers of these Indian cities, 
although ilaudilay thinks they must have already been in ruins at the time 
of Cortes' expedition. Being everywhere in search of provisions for his starving 
followers, the conqueror would certainly have applied to Quirigua for succour had 
such a large city been in existence at that time. The ruins of Chapuko, which are 
said to lie on the south side of the Motagua valley over against Quirigua, have 
not yet been explored. Paved causeways and sepulchral mounds occur here and 
there in the surrounding forests. 

The present route from Guatemala to the Atlintic diverges from the Motagua 
valley at Barbasco, and after crossing the Mico range a little to the east of 
Quirigua, leads down to Izabal, an unhealthy place on the south side of the Golfo 
Dulce. Under the Spanish rule this port, which has the immense advantage of 
Ijing some 60 miles inland, but which is inaccessible to vessels of deep draught, 
■was unable to develop any trade, owing to the corsairs at that time infesting the 
surrounding waters. But after the declaration of independence, Izabal almost 
entirely monopolised the foreign trade of Guatemala, such as it was. Then the 
discovery of the Californian goldfields, and the establishment of regular lines of 
steamers between Panama and San Francisco, had the result of diverting the whole 
life of Guatemala from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboard. Thus Izabal found 
itself abandoned, and its silent streets are now overgrown with the sensitive 
mimosa. But the improvement of the communications, and peojjling, or rather 
repeopling of the land facing the Atlantic, cannot fail to revive and even increase 
the trade of Izabal. 

At the mouth ol the Piio Dulce, on the Gulf of Amatique, stands the seaport of 
Liriiicjston, so named in honour of a jurist who drew up the legal code of Guate- 
mala. The first colonists settled herein 1806, and the place is at present inhabited 
by Caribs, agriculturists, fishers, and seafarers, who carry on a coasting trade with 
Belize and Honduras. Livingston has recently been declared a free port, and is 
already much frequented by American skippers, who here ship bananas and other 
fruits in exchange for spirits. This port is the third in Guatemala, ranking next 
in importance to San Jose and Champerico. 

On the east bank of the neighbouring Rio Dulce, and near the present village 



of San Gil, stood the great citj' of Nifo, which was cai)tured by Cortes' lieutenant, 
Olid, and which he wished to make the cajjital of an independent state. The 
eastern headland, at the issue of the Rio Dulce on the margin of the lake, is 
crowned by the citadel of Sun Felipe, one of the most unhealthj' places on the 
seaboard. It has accordingly been chosen by the Government as a state prison. 

Cohan, capital of Alta Vera Paz, stands 4,380 feet above the sea in the 
healthiest and one of the most fertile districts of Guatemala. It is a flourishing 
place, with an increasing population of over 18,000, mostly industrious Quekchi 
Indians, who raise considerable crops of miize and beans. Coffee, cinchona, 
and the wax plant {myrica cerifera) are also successfully cultivated. The 
neighbouring rocks are pierced by numerous caves, and the whole region may be 
said to rest on limestone vaults, the most remarkable of which is that of Sau 

99. — Lake Peten. 
Scale 1 : 720,000. 

r , EI Remate 
Maca'nche* , °° /.'AA/o^ 


VVest oF breenwpch 


12 Miles. 

Agostin Langnin, where a little affluent of the Polochic has its source. A good 
carriage-road running south-east and east through the villages of Tactic, Tamahu, 
Tucunt, and Tcleman, leads to the riverain port of I'aiizos, where the local produce 
is forwarded by a small steamer down the Polochic to the Golfo Dulce. No trace 
now remains of the Nueva Seiilla, founded in 1544 near the mouth of the Polochic ; 
but in 1825 the English established in the district the colony of Ahbotsville {Boca 
Nueva), which was not more successful than its Spanish predecessor. 

Lihertad, capital of the department of Peten, better known \>\ its Indian name 
of Sacluc, lies on an affluent of the Pasion, a main branch of the Usumacinta. 
The few inhabitants of the surrounding savannas are occupied chiefly in stock- 
breeding. Excellent pasturage is afforded by the whole of this lake-studded 
i-egion stretching northwards in the direction of Yucatan. An island in the 



neighbouring Lake Peten is occupied by the ancient city of Tayasal, now re-named 
Flores in honour of a victim of the civil war of 1826. A steep road leads from 
the place to the crest of a hill, whence a fine prosj^ect is commanded of the 
islands, headlands, wooded heights, and blue waters of the lake. On the opposite 
shore are seen the two large Indian settlements of San Andres and San Jose dis- 
posed along the slopes of the encircling hills. The whole territorj- of Peten is 

Pig. 100. — Density of the Popuiatiox in Guatemala. 
Scale 1 : 4,500.000. 

Inhabitan'* to llie Square MUe 


2 to 20. 20 to 40. 40 to 60. 60 to 100. 100 and 

• Towns of over 25,000 inhibitants. 

. 60 Miles. 

surprisingly fertile, maize yielding two hundredfold without manure, while the 
cacao, coffee, tobacco, and vanilla of the surrounding plantations are of the best 
qualit}'. The fishes inhabiting the lake are said to be all of distinct species. 
According to the legend they were formerly of larger size than at present, being 
fed in pre-Columbian times on the bodies of the dead. Of the ruined cities that are 
scattered over the clearings north of the lake, in the direction of Yucatan, Ti/ciil 
alone has been explored. It lies 20 miles to the north-cast of Peten, and is noted 


for its lofty verdure-clad pyramid, the most majestic Maya structure seen by 
Maiulslay during kis explorations of Central America. Here BernouilU found 
about a dozen hieroglyphical tablets of sapota wood, which are now preserved in 
the Museum of Basle 

Economic Coxdition of Guatemala. 

The population of Guatemala is steadily increasing almost exclusively by the 
natural excess of births over the mortality. Foreign immigration is so slight that 
not more than 2,000 strangers are settled in the republic. Of these the most 
numerous are the "Tiroleses," a term applied generally to all North Italians, whose 
industrious habits have earned for them the contempt of the Indians, hitherto 
accustomed to regard their white masters as a superior race above the necessity of 
manual labour. Since 1778 the jjopulation has grown from 260,000 to 1,450,000, 
and the increase has been uniform in all the departments, except in some of the 
northern districts on the Atlantic coast. At the same time illegitimacy is exces- 
sive, especially amongst the Ladinos, or "civilised" Indians, nearly one-half of 
whom are returned as born out of wedlock. 

With the exception of wheat grown with potatoes on the Altos (uplands), the 
agricultural produce amply suffices for the local demand. Like those of Mexico, 
the Indians of the temperate zone live almost exclusively on maize, beans, and 
bananas ; even fasajo, or jerked meat, is a rare delicacy, and pork is eaten only on 
feast-days. Water is their usual drink, except on pay-day, when they get drunk 
on a fiery brandy here bearing the Peruvian name of " chicha," or on other fermented 
liquors such as tiste and jmnqne, which, like the povola of Tabasco, is food and 
drink combined. 

When Guatemala proclaimed her independence, next to nothing was raised for 
the foreign markets ; but cochineal, for which the country is as well suited as Oaxaca 
itself, soon became a lucrative industry, especially in the Amatitlan and neigh- 
bouring districts. The export rose from 16,000 pounds in 1827 to nearl}' 2,250,000 
in the middle of the century. But the cochineal industry was ruined by the dis- 
covery of dyes extracted from coal, and nopal-fields are now rarely seen. They 
have been replaced by coffee, which'is now the staple of the export trade. In the 
districts where it is cultivated — Boca Costa, between Retalhuleu and Escuiutla, 
Antigua, Petapa, Amatitlan — the shrub thrives in the shade of leafy trees from 
2,000 to 3,000 feet above the sea, and on open plantations up to 4,000 and even 
5,000 feet. The Guatemalan coffee is highly esteemed, and the plant has hitherto 
escaped the ravages of parasites. The crop of 1890, yielded by over 50,000,000 
shrubs, was estimated at 30,000 tons, worth £3,000,000. 

The temperate zone is also suited for sugar- growing, although, for want of 
capital, Guatemala is unable to compete with the wealthy planters of Cuba, Louis- 
iana, and Brazil. Nevertheless, from 5,000 to 6,000 tons are raised in the Costa 
Cuca and Costa Grande districts, for the local wants and for the production of rum. 
But distillers are so heavily taxed that little profit is made, except by smugglers. 
The cultivation of cacao {theobroma) has been almost abandoned, although the 



local varieties are of exquisite flavour. During the Spanish rule the cacao of 
West Guatemala and Soconusco was reserved for the Court of Madi-id ; now it is 
no longer exported, though it commands a higher price in the country than th& 
best varieties exported to Europe. Indigo, formerly raised in the Retalhulcu 
district, is. also now neglected, hut, being a vigorous plant, it continues to grow wild, 
and in many places has invaded the sugar and other plantations. Cotton is scarcely 

Pig. 101. — Chief PEODtrcis of Guatehaia. 

Scale 1 : i-SOXOOO. 

West o'^ Greenes ;ch 

W llilM. 

cultivated, except by the Indians of the hot zone. The competition of foreign 
importers has also nearly ruined the native weavers. 

Unsuccessful attempts have been made to introduce caoutchouc {castilloa 
elasfica) into the temperate zone, but it is stiU collected in the forests, although 
the wild plant yields an inferior gum. The cocoanut palm has been planted 
round most of the coast towns and farmsteads, but more for ornament than use. 
On the other hand, cinchona is extensively cultivated, especially in the Cohan 
district and on the Pacific slope; as many as 1,5-30,000 trees had already been 
planted in the year 1SS4. 


Vast tracts, formerly under primeval forest, have been cleared, and mostly 
converted into savannas for stock-breeding. Even in the districts under cultiva- 
tion, the planters have their pofreros, or saccitaks, little plots reserved for pasturage. 
Nevertheless, the stock is insufficient for the local demand, and cattle have to be 
imported at high rates from Mexico and Honduras. Sheep are confined chiefly 
to the Altos, where the wool is used in the manufacture of coarse fabrics. 

As in ilexico, most of the Indians employed on the plantations are held in a 
state of real bondage by the hahilitacioncs, or advances in money, which they are 
unable to refund, and for which the produce of their future labour becomes 
pledged. Hence, as in the days of slavery, the planters keep overseers to prevent 
the men from escaping. Statute labour, and even the lash, flourish in spite of the 
law, and the magistrates themselves supply the landowners with "hands" for a small 
consideration. Nevertheless, in many districts the Indians are still free, and own 
the land they till. In virtue of a recent law, all mayors, or the jefes politico^ 
(political agents), of the Alta Vera Paz communes, where the civilised Indians 
are most numerous, are required to allot to each native as his share of the public 
domain a plot of about 4,400 square yards with free title, but on condition of 
neither selling, letting, nor mortgaging the concession for the first ten years. Vast 
spaces are still unoccupied, and these baldios, as they are called, all belong to the 
State, which sells or leases them at pleasure. In order to safeguard what remains of 
the vacant lands it has been decided to make no grants of more than 3,400 acres 
to a single person, who must be a native or naturalised citizen. 

Although, compared to Mexico, Guatemala possesses little mineral wealth, 
the Izabal district, on the Atlantic seaboard, was said to abound in auriferous 
deposits, hence the expression " Gold Coast " often applied to it in official documents 
of the seventeenth century. These treasures were worked exclusively by English 
miners, who, according to the tradition, extracted enough gold to purchase " a 
kingdom of Spain." In recent times they have been succeeded by Americans, 
who have at least discovered gold washings, though the yield is valued at no more 
than £6,000 a year. Quicksilver mines exist on the Huehuetenango plateaux ; but 
the Indians, who from time to time oifer the pure metal for sale, have hitherto 
refused to reveal the locality. A mountain in the Cumbre de Chixoy is also said to 
contain over 35,000,000 cubic feet of lead ore, three-fourths of which is pure metal. 

The foreign trade of Guatemala, although steadilj' increasing, is still less than 
£2,000,000, including all the exchanges. About nine-tenths of the total exports 
are represented by coffee, the other articles in order of importance being sugar, 
skins and hides, caoutchouc, silver, and bananas. Great Britain has the largest 
share of the foreign traffic, the United States, France, and Germany ranking next 
in importance. 

The railway system is little developed, the only important lines being those 
from San Jose to Guatemala, and from Champerico to Eetalhuleu. It is now 
proposed to continue these lines to the Atlantic, and Puerto Barrios, on St. 
Thomas Bay, has been chosen as the eastern terminus of the transoceanic railway. 
A few miles have already been constructed at the Atlantic end, but the ascent to 



tlie plateaux, tlie bridging of the Motagua, and otlaer difRculties, havo arrested 
the progress of the line, the total length of which is estimated at ISG miles. 
Even good carriage-roads are still rare, and the only bridge crossing the Motagui 

Fig. 102.— GrATEiiAiAN Alcaldes, Altos Region. 

has been swept away by the floods. Meanwhile, all merchandise destined for the 
Atlantic has to be tran.sported by pack mules. In the thinly -peopled regions of 
the interior the postal service is still carried on, as in the tim'e of Montezuma, by 



relays of couriers, by means of whom letters and verbal messages are transmitted 
witb great rapidity. But the development of the telegraph, and even of the 
telephone, must soon supersede this antiquated system. 

Education is still in a backward state, and in 1890 there were only 1,200 
schools, with an attendance of 53,000, in the whole republic. The three colleges 
for secondary instruction are frequented by about 1,200 students, and in all the 
higher schools English is obligatory. 

The Guatemalan constitution has undergone many changes. At one time part 
of a larger state, at another an independent republic, alternately ruled by the 
"Serviles" and the " Liberals," exposed to the tyranny of a Carrera or the 
cruelty of a Barrios, the nation has had to modify its political charter with every 
fresh revolution. The last constitution was that of 1879, completed in 1889, 
though fresh changes will have still to be made if Guatemala is eventually to 
become a member of the contemplated Central American Confederacy. 

The legislative power is vested in a chamber of deputies, in the proportion 
of one to 20,000 inhabitants, elected by all citizens capable of reading and writing. 
The deputies, half of whom retire by rotation every two years, number at present 
69, and are returned by electoral districts, which are represented by one, 
two, or three members, according to their population. The executive is entrusted 
to a president elected for six months, assisted by a state council, and six ministers 
having charge of foreign affairs, the interior, public works, war, finance, and 
public instruction. Lastly, the judicial functions are exercised by a high court of 
final appeal, and lower courts, all judges being appointed by election. Imprison- 
ment for debt is abolished, and the domicile, as well as private correspondence, is 
held to be inviolate, except in time of war or invasion, when all rights are 

In the departments and communes, the aijuntamientos are constituted by 
popular suffrage, although the Government reserves the right of dissolving these 
assemblies, and replacing them by a judge. It also appoints to each department 
a jefe jmlitico, who is always a military officer, although charged with civil func- 
tions. His power over the Indians is almost unlimited, and in each commune 
a comisionado politico or gohernador, often chosen amongst the descendants of the 
ancient caciques, transmits his orders to the alcaldes, of whom there are two or 
three, according to the population of the district. The " first alcalde " has special 
charge of the Ladinos, the " second "of the Indians, and both wear the traditional 
hat and band as the badge of their authority, besides the cruciform or silver- 
mounted rod. 

The Church, long supreme in Guatemala, has no longer any recognized privi- 
leges. According to the constitution, no cult enjoys any pre-eminence, and the 
free exercise of all religions is authorised, although in 1890 there was only one 
Protestant church in the capital. The Jesuits had already been expelled in 1767, 
and in 1871 their establishments were finally suppressed and their property con- 
fiscated. The same fate had befallen the other religious communities in 1829, 
although they subsequently recovered part of their effects. But the property of 



all religious orders was " nationalised " in 1872, and in 187-i all nunneries were 
suppressed except one. Some of the convents were used as schools or depots ; but 
most of the ecclesiastical domains benefited the " politicians " alone, many of whom 
suddenly found themselves in possession of vast fortunes. 

OflSciallj- all citizens between the ages of 18 and 50 are bound to military- 
service ; but the law exempts the only sons of widows, professors, officials, and all 
capable of purchasing exemption by an annual payment of 50 dollars. Pure 

Fig. 103. — PoLmcAi. Divisio>-3 of GuiXEiLU-i. 

ScilB I 4.500,000. 

130 Miles. 

Indians are not enrolled, but in time of war they are pressed into the transport 

The yearly budget varies from £800,000 to over £1,000,000, mostly raised 
from the customs levied on nearly all foreign imports, or derived from the excise 
on the manufacture and sale of spirits, ilost of the revenue is absorbed by the 
army, though a yearly sum of £80,000 to £100,000 is devoted to public instruction. 

In 1S90 the national debt was about £4,200,000, over half of which was due to 
English capitalists. 

R 2 


The republic is divided iuto 23 administrative departments, all of which are 
less than -3,000 square miles in extent, except the three great divisions of Huehue- 
tenango (6,000), Alta Vera Puz (7,000), and Peten (10,000). The chief towns, 
mostly bearing the same names as the departments, have all populations of less 
than 20,000, except Totonicapam (20,000), Quezaltenango (24,000), and the state 
capital, Guatemala (06,000). 

III. — Sax Salvador. 

San Salvador, or simplj' Salvador, smallest of the Central American states, is 
the richest and relatively the most densely jjeopled. Its area is estimated at 
about 7,250 square miles, or less than that of British Honduras, though its popula- 
tion is at least twenty times greater than that colony. It forms a narrow zone of 
quadrilateral shape on the Pacific slope, 186 miles long and with a mean breadth of 
not more than 50 miles. The landward frontiers are mostly conventional lines, or 
else indicated by streams both banks of which are inhabited by peoples of the same 
origin. Towards Guatemala the line follows the course of the little river Paza to 
the Chingo volcano, beyond which it intersects Lake Guija and trends round east- 
v^ards to Honduras, where it traverses mountains and vallej's with equal disregard 
of the physiciil and ethnical relations. Northwards the frontier is not indicated by 
the crest of the sierra, but by the river Sumpul, a tributary of the Lemj^a, then by 
the Lempa itself below the confluence, and lastly by another stream belonging 
to the same basin. On the east it follows the course of the Goascoran, which 
leaves to Salvador only a small part of the margin of Fonseca Bay. 

The main range and the volcanic chain, which had already ramified in Guate- 
mala, continue to diverge to a considerable distance eastwards, so that the former 
belongs entirely to Honduras, the latter to Salvador. Here the prevailing rocks 
are undoubtedly of eruptive origin, although many volcanic cones are no longer 
easily recognised, their craters having been obliterated, and their slopes covered 
with the same grey, white or yellowish clay which also overlay the Mexican and 
Guatemalan mountains. The plains encircling the volcanoes consist to a great 
depth of ashes and jiumice, the upper crust of w hich, when decomposed, yields a 
soil of extraordinary fertility. 

East of Guatemala the chief range is that of the steep Matapan Mountains 
(5,000 feet), which rise to the north-east of Lake Guija, and which from a distance 
seem quite inaccessible. But no igneous cones are here visible, and most of the 
active craters lie nearer to the Pacific coast, between Ahuachapam and the \'illage 
of San Juan de Dios, where is developed a line of the so-called aiisoks disposed 
transversely to the volcanic axis. At many points along this line gases are emitted 
in abundance, but all the most remarkable ausoles, presenting every transition 
from tlie mud volcano and gas jet to the hot spring, are concentrated close to 
Ahuachapam, on the main route between the cities of Guatemala and San Salvador. 
Over the plain are scattered large mud lakes, kept in a state of ebullition b}' the 
underground vapours, and the clays deposited by the ausoles present every shade 
of colour — blue, green, yellow or red, evidently due to the disintegration of ferru- 



ginous rocks intersporsed with alum and siilpliur. To judge from tlie accounts 
of early writers, all the ausoles would appear to have diminished in temperature 
and activity during the present century. 

Farther east is developed an igneous system, the Madre del Volcan, with peaks 
from 5,500 to 6,500 feet high, all of which — Apaneca, Launita (Lagunita), San 
Juan, Aguila, Naranjo and others — are said by the inhabitants of Sonsonate to be 
true volcanoes. But according to Dollfus and Mont-Serrat thej^ are rather masses 
of trachytic porphyry, covered with yellow clays and ashes ejected by distant 
volcanoes. One, however, the Santa Ana (C,650 feet), appears to be a real crater, 
which has been recently even in eruption. 

A far more celebrated, though less elevated, volcano is that of Izalco, which 

Kg. 101. — AUSOL AT Ahuaohapam. 

belongs to the same system, and which, like the Jorullo of Mexico, lias made its 
appearance since the arrival of the Sj^auiards in the New World. At the beginning 
of the seventeenth century, its site, or at least the district near Sonsonate, was 
occupied by ausoles like those of Ahuachapam, which, however, appear to have after- 
wards become extinct. But on February 23, 1770, the ground suddenly opened 
and ejected copious lava streams. Then the cone began to rise above the surface, 
and has ever since continued to expand ; but since the first eruption it has ejected 
nothing but ashes. Formerlj' the explo-.ions were almost incessant, and the 
volumes of fiery vapour rolling up from the crater at night earned for Izalco the 
title of the Faro del Salvador (" Salvador Lighthouse "). Dollfus and Mont- 
Serrat, who ascended it during a short period of repose in 1SG6, estimated its height 



at a little over G,000 feet, and found the summit pierced by three craters, one of 
which emitted vapours with hissing and rumbling noises. Izalco is a perfect cone, 
" as regular as if turned out by a lathe." 

San Salvador, a volcano rising to a height of G,'200 feet, about six miles north 
of the capital, appears to have been quiescent since pre-Columbian times. From 
a distance it presents none of the distinctive features of an igneous cone, being an 
elongated mass with irregular base, and wooded nearly to the summit. But it 
terminates in the so-called boqueron, an immense crater nearly round, about three 
miles in circuit and flooded by a green transparent lake 650 feet deep. On the 
flanks is an ausol constantly discharging vapours, and near the north base are some 

Fig. 105. — Volcanoes of West Salvadob. 
Scale 1 : 1.200^000. 


18 Unes. 

parasitic cones, one of which, the Quezaltepec volcano, was the scene of a small 
eruption at the beginning of the century. 

But although the volcanoes in the neighbourhood of the capital have not been 
the scene of any important eruptions during the historic period, earthquakes have 
been frequent and almost as disastrous as in any region of the globe. They are 
all the more dangerous that the ground on which San Salvador is built consists of a 
whitish tufaceous rock, light and unstable, " floating," so to say, in the depressions 
of the solid crust without coalescing with it. The city has been overthrown and 
rebuilt on the same site no less than seven times during the last three centuries. 
The sudden catastrophe of 1854 swallowed up many victims, while that of 1873 
was even still more destructive to the buildings. 

This disturbance appears to have radiated from Tiuke Ilopango (Apulo), a deep 





basin six miles cast of the capital, about 1 ,600 feet above the sea, encircled by steep 
rocky shores. The lake, which has an area of 2-1 square miles, has frequently 
chaDged its level, and towards the middle of the eighteenth century it was much 
lower than at present. But after a series of landslips its eastern emissary, which 
flows in a deep barranca to the Jiboa, a direct affluent of the Pacific, was dammed 
Lip, thus causing a considerable rise in the level. In 1873, the lake was 
violently agitated and raised about three feet above its normal level, and in 1879, 
a fresh disturbance was followed by another rise of four feet. 

Then the waters overflowed their banks, and rapidly excavated a channel, 


lO'j. — Lake Ilopaxgo. 
Scale 1 : l70/y«i. 


West oi GreenwicK 


to 50 

60 to 100 

100 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

__ 3 Tililee. 

whereby a subsidence of eight feet was effected in three hours. In 54 days there 
was a total fall of 35 feet, the volume discharged being estimated at over 20,320 
million cubic feet. The noxious vapours which at first accompanied these convul- 
sions were followed by discharges of lava, and islets composed of eruptive matter 
rose gradually above the surface of the seething waters. But when all was over 
nothing remained except an island of hard lava 160 feet high, in the immediate 
vicinity of which the sounding- line revealed a depth of over 100 fathoms. 
During "the eruption the geologist Goodyear recorded no less than 440 violent 



North-east of Lake Ilopan go rise the spurs of the Cojutepec volcano (3,-100 
feet), whose crater, though still visible, has been quiescent throughout the historic 
period. Farther on follows Chichontepec, the " Twin-peaked," now known by 
the name of San Vicente, highest volcano in S^ilvador (7,920 feet). Like Agua, 
in Guatemala, its terminal cone formerly contained a tarn, which after a long 
rainy season, burst its margin and rushed down to the plains through barrancas 
scored in the flank of the mountain. The summit of San Vicente presents the 
finest panoramic view in Salvador, embracing Lake Ilopango, the richly culti- 

Fig. 107. — Volcanoes of East Salvadoh. 
Scale 1 : eoj.oon. 

12 Miles. 

vated slopes descending towards the Pacific, and the deep valley of the Rio 

Beyond the gap caused by this fluvial valley the chain of igneous cones is 
continued by the Tecapa volcano, also containing a lake of considerable extent, 
whose waters, according to the natives, " are cold on one side and hot on the 
other." Farther on follow the mountains of Usulutan and the four-crested 
Chinameca (5,000 feet). None of these have been the scene of recent disturbances, 
while Chinamcca's vast crater, nearly a mile in circumference, is completely 


Sail Miguel, one of the loftiest summits in Salvador (7,100 feet), which, thanks 


to its isolation, its rugged slopes, and sharply-truncated upper crest, presents an 
aspect of unrivalled grandeur, offers a superb prospect of the surrounding plains 
and river valleys away to the Pacific and ramifying inlets of Fonseca Bay. San 
Miguel has been in eruption several times during the historic period, and in 1844: 
as many as fourteen fissures on its flanks discharged diverging streams of lava, one 
of which flowed ten miles northwards to the outskirts of the city of San Miguel. 
The terminal crater is one of the largest in Central America, being nearly two 
miles in circuit and 500 feet deep. 

Farther east the volcanic chain terminates in the twin crested Conchagua, 
■whose gently-inclined wooded slopes project into Fonseca Bay. Conchagua, whose 
chief summit, the Cerro del Ocote, rises to a height of 4,100 feet, was supposed to 
be extinct till the j'car 1868, when a fissure was opened on its flanks, whence 
issued dense volumes of vapours, accompanied by violent earthquakes and avalanches 
of rocks. 

The lava streams which have been discharged parallel with the Pacific coast 
have certainly contributed to modify the hydrographic system of Salvador by 
damming up the streams and compelling them either to excavate fresh channels or 
to fill vast lacustrine depressions. A distinct waterparting has been formed by 
the volcanic range, whence on one side flow rapid torrents seawards, while, on the 
other, the running waters converge in the great valley of the Rio Lempa, running 
parallel with the igneous axis and the main Honduras range. 

The Lempa, one of the chief rivers of Central America, rises in Guatemala, one 
of its headstreams descending from the famous shrine of Esquipulas. After 
crossing the frontier it receives the overflow of the great Lake Guija, which is 
itself fed by the Ostua and numerous torrents from the surrounding mountains. 

Below the confluence the Lempa continues to flow parallel with the Pacific 
coast, receiving on both banks numerous tributaries from the northern and southern 
ranges. Beyond its junction 'with its largest afiluent, the Sumpul from the 
Honduras mountains, it is joined from the east by the Tonola. Beyond this point 
the mainstream forces a passage through the escarpments of the plateau down to 
the plains, where its yellow waters, scarcely 10 feet deep in the dry season, flow 
with a sluggish current a few yards above the level of the Pacific. During the 
floods its lower course has a depth of from 20 to 26 feet, but at its mouth it is 
obstructed by a bar never more than six or seven feet dei p. Thus the Lempa, with 
a course of about 185 miles, a catchment basin 6,000 square miles in extent, and a 
mean discharge of from 16,000 to 24,000 cubic feet per second, is inaccessible to 
marine navigation, though river steamers can ascend its lower reaches to the 
great southern bend at the Tonola confluence. The San Miguel, which flows in a 
nearly parallel channel farther east, enters the sea at the Estero de Jiquilisco, an 
inlet which might easily be connected with the Lempa. 

The Salvador coast, like that of Guatemala, has been subject to numerous 
changes of level in past times. Banks of recent shells lying some distance inland 
show that the beach has been upheaved, or else that the neighbouring waters have 


Climate, Flora, Fauna. 

Being intersected by 13° 30' north latitude, with a general southern incline, the 
Salvador coastlands are exposed to great heats which, despite the refreshing sea- 
breezes, range normally from about 78° to 83° Fahr. But the coastlands are the 
least inhabited part of the country, most of the population being concentrated in 
the elevated volcanic zone between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea-level, where the 
mean temperature falls to 7-1° and even 70° Fahr. Farther north, in the low-lying 
valley of the Lempa, which is inaccessible to the sea-breezes, the climate again 
becomes hot and insalubrious ; hence this district also is but sparsely peopled. 

The rains, which are more copious on the seaward slopes of the mountains, 
begin to fall about the middle of May, and last, with a short interruption towards 
the end of June, till the month of September. They are always brought by the 
vendavales, or southern winds, and are at times accompanied by storms, and even by 
cluihancos, or cyclones. During the dry season, when the north winds prevail, the 
coastlands are also exposed to storms, the so-called fcrrah's, which are much dreaded 
by the fishing populations, especially in the months of February and March. 

In its flora and fauna Salvador differs little from Guatemala. A characteristic 
species is the balsam {myrospcrmum sah'ctforensr), which has given its name to the 
section of the coast between Acajutla and Libertad, and which was formerly called 
" Peruvian Balsam," because forwarded to Spain by the Callao route. Salvador is 
especially rich in medicinal plants, gums, and resins. Of late years the planta- 
tions have been somewhat frequently visited by clouds of locusts. 


The Pipils, that is, the Aztecs of Guatemala, were also in possession of west 
Salvador at the time of the Spanish Conquest, as is attested by the local nomen- 
clature. The centre of their power was at Suchitoto, north of the present capital, 
and Bernal Diaz tells us that their social, religious and political institutions were 
identical with those of the Mexican Aztecs. Their territory was limited north 
and east by the Rio Lempa, which river long arrested the advance of the Spaniards. 
The very name of the river is a corruption of Lempira, chief of the Chontal 
Indians, who offered the stoutest resistance to the invaders. 

After the conquest, the Pipils, like their Mexican kindred, were reduced to a 
state of abject servitude ; yet they became gradually assimilated to their x-nasters 
by crossings, and at the time of the declaration of independence in 1821, the 
Salvador half-breeds greatly outnumbered the whites. At present, about four- 
fifths of the population are of mixed Hispano-Tndian descent. But there still 
survive some nearly if not quite full-blood Indian communities, such as the Pipils 
of Izalno, who stiU speak a Mexican dialect. 

But the native customs and language are best preserved by the people of the 
Balsam coast, south of the volcanic range. These Indians, who dwell in low huts 
covered v/ith foliage, cultivate a little maize, and do some trade in bananas with 



the seaports. The money derived from this traffic is spent in decorating their 
churches and feasting their patron saints, all being now at least nominal Catholics. 
Physically, they differ little from their Guatemalan neighbours, except in their 
darker complexion, and the much smaller stature of their women. 


Ahuachapam, the first town near the Guatemalan, is perhaps the city of Paza 
(Pasaco), whence was named the Rio Paza, fonning the present political frontier 
between Guatemala and Salvador. Ahuachapam, with the neighbouring towns of 
Atiquisaija, ChalchHitpa, and Santa Ana, lies in a marvellously fertile district, on 
which sugar and coffee are largely grown, but which has often been a battle-field 

Kg. lOS. — San Sai-vador a>."d its Exvteoxs. 
Scale 1 : 230,000. 








1 i ■>:!- 

/ . 


ti|;uo Cuscatlan 


; -5 TecUy . .. 
.C.Mevi S. Salvador); 


\ ■ 


t -wsm 


• 69"i6' .- -. 

'"'"^^ ^ . 


\ T-- ;,'■ Greenwich 


. 6 lliles. 

in the wars between Guatemala and Salvador. It was at Chalchuapa that the 
dictator, Eufino Barrios, was overthrown in the ^jinguinary engagement of 1885, 
which put an end to the hegemony of Guatemala over the other Central American 

Sonsonafe, or the " Four Hundred Springs," also lies in a rich and well-watered 
plain, which is often illumined at night by the fires of Izalco. Formerly the most 
important place in west Salvador, Sonsonate has now been eclipsed by Santa Ana, 
which lies to the north of the volcano of like name on the main route between 
Salvador and Guatemala. Since the earthquakes h\ which the capital has been 
twice destroyed, Santa xVna has become the largest city in the republic ; it is an 
important agricultural centre, and the neighbouring: district of Mctwpan, on 


the north side of Lake Guija, abounds in productive iron, copper, silver, and 
zinc mines. 

Acajutla, the outlet of this western division of Salvador, lies on the west side 
of a spacious bay, open to the western and southern winds. Despite its exposed 
position, Acajutla has become the largest seaport in the state, shipping coffee and 
other produce in exchange for foreign manxjfactured wares. It is the seaward 
terminus of the first railway built in >Salv;;dor, which runs north to Sonsonate and 
Armenia, the ancient Giiaymoco, and which is ultimately to effect a junction with 
the projected trunk line from Mexico to Panama. A branch in course of con- 
struction runs through the Guayuiwd towards the flourishing coffee plantations of 
Santa Ana, whence the main highway leads to San Sahadur, capital of the 

This place was originally founded in 1525 in the Suchitoto valley, much 
farther north than its present position in the fertile plain, 2,300 feet above the 
sea, at the east foot of the San Salvador volcano. The district, covered with coffee 
and other plantations, is watered by the Aselguate, a southern affluent of the Rio 
Lempa, while immediately to the south other streams flow in parallel channels 
down to the Pacific. The city thus stands on the waterparting, and has the 
further advantage of occupying a strong central position, defended by wide and 
deep barrancas of extremely difflcult access. But the district is exposed to 
frequent and violent earthquakes, by which San Salvador has been twice destroyed 
during the present century. On these occasions, many of the inhabitants sought 
refuge elsewhere, and especially at Santa Tecla, nine miles to the north-west. 

Santa Tecla thus became the temporary capital, and even received the name of 
Nuevo San Salvador, but being equally exposed to underground disturbances, as 
well as to volcanic eruptions, it scarcely offered much more security than the first 
place, which has been rebuilt of wood, on a principle of elastic frames calculated 
to resist sudden shocks. San Salvador has now resumed its position as seat of 
the administration, but has not yet recovered the population of 30,000 which it 
possessed about the middle of the century. It communicates by a well-kept road 
with its seaport of La Libertad, an exposed roadstead, where the shipping rides at 
anchor in the surf over half a mile from the shore. 

East of the capital the main route passes north of Lake Ilopango to Coju- 
tepeqne, an Indian town, followed successively by Jihoa and San Vicente, the 
latter founded in 1638 on a wesiern affluent of the lower Lempa on the site of the 
ancient Aztec city of Tehuacan. The ruins of this place, known bj' the name of 
Opieo, stand on a lateral terrace of the San Vicente volcano. The route leads 
thence through Sacatecoluca to the port of Concordia, at the mouth of the Rio 

In the marshy and insalubrious valley of the Lempa there are no centres of 
population, the nearest towns being Suchitoto, Ilohasco, and Sensiintepeque, which 
stand on breezy headlands, whei-e the temperature is lower than in the low-lying 
fluvial basin. Chalatcnango, the only town in the northern district between the 
Lempa and the Sumpul, lies also at some distance from the mainstream. 



East of the Lcmpu tlie largest place is Chinameca, which is inhabited by 
Tndiaus and half-castes. San Miguel, lying farther east on the river of that 
name, derives some importance from its fairs, which are frequented by traders 

from all parts of Central America and Mexico. Its seaport of La Union stands on 
one of the numerous sheltered inlets of Fonseca Bay, where excellent anchorage is 
afforded at about a mile from the shore. 


Economic Condition of Salvador. 

Despite its foreign wars and civil strife, Salvador is a prosperous country, as 
shown by tlie rapid increase of population unaided by any foreign immigration. 
Since 1778, when it was originally returned at 117,436, tbe population has 
certainly more than quadrupled, the census of 1886 yielding over 651,000, and the 
estimate for 1890 being at least 675,000, or about 70 inhabitants per square mile. 
At the same proportion the United States would have a population of from 
340,000,000 to 350,000,000, instead of 63,000,000 according to the census of 

Recently Salvador has given a striking proof of its vitality by the ease with 
which it has accomplished a great economic revolution. Till lately its revenue 

Fig. 110. — Denbitt of the Popdiation op Salvadok. 
Scale 1 : 2,700,000. 



Inhabitants to the Square Mile. 

a ffl ffl 

40 to 60. 60 to 80. SO to 120. 

Each square represents a population of 50O. 

• Towns of over 20,000 inhabitimta. 

120 and upwards. 

60 Miles. 

depended mainly on indigo, its only article of export. But since the discovery of 
the various coal-tar dyes superseding the use of indigo, the Salvador planters have 
had to abandon its cultivation and replace it chiefly by coffee and sugar. The 
yield of the silver mines has also contributed to pay for the textiles, hardware, 
corn, and other articles imported from abroad. The total value of the exchanges 
is about £4 per head of the population, amounting in 1890 to over £2,250,000. 

Inland traffic is facilitated by carriage-roads with a total length of 2,700 
miles in 1890, but in the same year there were only 36 miles of railways. The 
telegraph and postal services are also in a backward state, though education, now 
gratuitous and obligatory, is making considerable progress. In 1889 the schools 
were attended by over 40,000 scholars, or one-eighteenth of the whole population, 

nOXDUEAS. 255 

exclusive of 1,300 frequenting the tigh schools and 180 following the courses of 
the national university in the capital. 

Salvador has been an independent state only since 1859, and even since then 
its constitution, which should be representative, has been frequently modified or 
superseded by a military government tempered by insurrections. In theory the 
legislative power is vested in a national assemblj- of 42 members, elected for 
one year by popular suffrage, while the executive is exercised by a president, who 
is also elected by the people, but for four years, and who chooses his own ministrj', 
consisting of four secretaries of state. 

The standing army comprises about 2,000 of all arms, with a militia nominally 
40,000 strong. The administration of justice is entrusted to a supreme court 
situated in the capital, with courts of appeal at Santa Ana, Cojutepeque, and San 
Miguel, tribunals of first instance for each of. the three judiciary districts, and 
justices of the peace for the towns and communes. 

As in most American states, the revenue is mainly derived from the customs, 
about one-third being contributed by monopolies on tobacco and spirits. Not 
more than a fourth of the national income is absorbed by the army, a proportion 
less than that expended on education and public works. In 1890 the debt 
amounted to £1,300,000. 

Under the Spanish regime Salvador formed part of the viceroyalty of Guate- 
mala, comprising the four provinces of Sonsonate, San Salvador, San "Vicente, 
and San Miguel. At present, the republic is divided into fourteen adminis- 
trative departments, grouped under three divisions, for which see Appendix. 

lY. — Honduras. 

The verj' name of Honduras recalls the times of the discovery, when the 
Spanish pilots, advancing cautiously along the coasts, reported shallow soundings 
{Jionduras) in the waters at the head of Honduras Bay. Columbus, who in 1502 
first explored these waters between Capes Caxinas (Honduras) and Gracias-a-Dios, 
ran great risks amid the surrounding reefs and shoals. But its present name was 
given to the seaboard not by Columbus, but by Bartholomew de las Casas, who in 
his Discovery of the West Indies by the Spaniards, speaks of the land of 
" Hondure," as if this name were of Indian origin. Twenty-two years later, at 
the time of Fernan Cortes' famous expedition across Yucatan, the country was 
known to the Spaniards by the name of Hibueras or Higueras, and it has also been 
called " New Estremadura " 

After forming part of the Guatemalan viceroyalty, Honduras was separated 
from the mother country with the rest of Central America, and at present forms 
one of the five sister republics. But despite its natural advantages of cL'mate, 
central position and excellent harbours on both oceans, its progress has been 
relatively slow. Under the Spanish rule the seaports and cultivated plains on 
the Atlantic side attracted the attention of the corsairs by whom these coast- 
lands were ravaged for a great distance inland. The country has, doubtless. 



been gradually resettled, but the bighest estimates assign it a population of not 
more tban six pei'sons to the square mile. 

Physical Features. 

Like Guatemala, Honduras is of triangular shape, but its position is reversed, 
60 that its base rests on the Atlantic, and its apex reaches the Pacihc at Fonseca Bay. 

The limits of the state are, how- 
Fig. in. -Ixteeoceanio Wateepaetixg, IIoxdukas. g^gj.^ almost everywhere indi- 

Sc.ile 1 : 480,000. , T , , ' . . , , . 

cated, not by conventional lines as 
elsewhere, but by such natural 
featui-es as mountains and river 
valleys. In the north-west it is 
separated from Guatemala bj' a 
winding frontier, which, while 
assigning to Honduras the Guate- 
malan valley of Copan, coincides 
in a general way with the crests 
of the Merendon, Espiritu Santo 
and Grita ranges, beyond which 
it follows the course of the Rio 
Tinto to a secondary inlet of 
Honduras Bay. 

Towards Salvador the frontier 
is formed m.ainly by the Rivers 
Sumpul, Lempa, Tonola and Goas- 
coran, and towards Xicaragua by 
the Rio Negro on the Pacific side, 
and by the Ocotal and Segovia 
on the Atlantic slope, the common 
waterparting being indicated by 
the Dipilto range. 

The interior is Still imperfectly 
known, but the country may, in 
a general way, be said to be di- 
vided into two unequal slopes by 
a sierra madre disposed parallel 
with, and at a mean distance of 
about GO miles from, the Pacific coast. This range is much more precipitous on 
the Pacific than on the Atlantic side, so that the south side should be regarded 
rather as the escarpment of a plateau carved into distinct masses by streams 
flowing north to the Caribbean Sea. 

Towards the west or Guatemalan frontier the Sierra de Pacaya (6,600 feet) 
branches off from the Merendon range and farther on merges in the Sierra de 
Selaque, round which the running waters diverge in all directions. Here the 

12 Miles. 


Honduras orographic system appears to culminate in several peaks exceeding 10,000 
feet in height. Farther on the uplands fall and again rise in the direction of the 
east, where they develop the Opalaca and San Juan ranges. At the extremity of 
this chain is opened the great depression forming the natural highway of communi- 
cation between the two fluvial basins of Humuya on the north, and Goascoran on 
the south. Here the waterparting is indicated only by the relatively low passes 
of Guajoca (2,300 feet) and Eancho Chiquito (2,400), which are already traversed 
by a road, and which will probably soon be crossed by a railway of easy ascent and 
free from tunnels. 

Eocks of tertiary formation overlying the older strata recall the epoch when 
this depression was still flooded by a channel flowing between the two oceans when 
Central America formed a chain of islands, not, as at present, a. continuous 

Beyond the depression the main range, here called the Sierra Lepaterlque, 
soon ramifies into a northern and a southern chain, the former running north-east 
to Cape Gracias-a-Dios, the latter southwards to the main range of Nicaragua. 

The igneous system, which in Salvador and Nicaragua runs between the main 
range and the Pacific coast, disappears altogether on the Honduras mainland, but 
is represented in the islets of Fonseca Bay. A slight upheaval of the marine bed 
would suflice to connect Sacate Grande and the other volcanoes in this bay with 
the opposite coast. Sacate Grande, largest of the group, rises to a height of 2,000 
feet, while the neighbouring Tiger Island is 600 feet higher. 

On tbe Atlantic side the Merendon main range is continued north-westwards 
by the long crest of the Espiritu Santo and Grita chains, which run at a mean 
altitude of over 6,700 feet between the valleys of the Guatemalan Rio Motagua and 
the Honduras Bio Chamelicon. The system rises probably to 10,000 feet in the Omoa 
group, which forms its seaward terminus near the port of Omoa. A northern 
spur of the Opalaca hills terminates in the huge and nearly isolated bluff of 
Mount Puca, while the San Juan crags, dominating the interoceanic depression, 
are continued in the same northerly direction by the MonteciUos and the Sierra de 
Canchia, which confront the Comayagua Mountains on the opposite side of the 

Eastwards the Lepaterique hills are connected with the central mass of the 
Sierra de Chile, whence various ridges ramify between deep valleys in diflerent 
directions. Lastly, the parting-line between Honduras and Nicaragua is formed 
by the Cordillera de Dipilto, which is continued seawards to the converging point 
of the rectilinear Honduras and Mosquitia shore-lines. 

In the interior of the state the Sierra Misoco runs due north-east nearlj' 
parallel with the Sulaco and Pija ridges, and Mount Paya, rising to a height of 
3,730 feet, near Cape Cameron, probablj* belongs to a branch of the same system. 
On the northern edge of the Honduras plateau the Congrehoy ridge, which cul- 
minates in a peak 8,200 feet high, seems to form a distinct chain disposed parallel 
with the neighbo\iring Baj- Islands. 

Some of the mountains of the interior have been spoken of as volcanoes, but 



they have never been seen in eruption, nor have they j'et been ascended by any 
scientific explorer. Such pretended volcanoes are Teapasemi (3,000 feet), in the 
Dipilto range, about midway between the two oceans, the Guaymaca and Boqueron 
heights in the Misoco chain. 

Rivers, Islands, Inlets. 

Honduras, being well exposed to the Atlantic rains, is traversed by numerous 
watercourses,' nor are there any closed basins, as in Mexico and Guatemala. In 
the west the first copious stream is the Chamelicon (Chamlico), which flows from 
the Merendon Hills parallel with the Motagua of Guatemala, terminating, after a 
rapid course of over 160 miles, in a delta connected by one branch with the 
Puerto-Caballos lagoon. The Chamelicon might almost be regarded as an 
aflfluent of the Ulua, its lower course running for 30 miles parallel with that 
stream through the same low-lying plain, where their waters are intermingled 
during the floods. 

But apart from the Chamelicon, the Ulua is the largest river in Honduras, its 
catchment basin comprising about a third of the whole state, and occupying all 
the space between the llerendon and Chile ranges. From the west it is joined 
by the Santiago (Yenta), swollen by the E,io Santa Barbara, and various emissaries 
from the great Lake Yojoa. From the south comes the Humuya, which may be 
regarded as the main branch ; from the east, the Sulaco. 

Lake Yojoa (Taulebe) has the form of an upland valley disposed crescent-shape 
from south to north, and without any visible afiluent at low water. But during 
the floods it rises to a great height, sending its overflow through the Jaitique at 
its south-eastern extremity to the Santa Barbara. But there are other outlets by 
which its waters also escape, disappearing in the 2^0^08 or cavities of the sur- 
rounding fossiliferous limestone rocks and reappearing lower down as tributaries 
of the Santa Barbara. According to Stanton and Edwards, there are no less than 
nine of these underground emissaries all flowing during the rainy season to the 
headstreams of the Ulua. 

Durioff the floods the Ulua is accessible to small steamers as far as the Sulaco 


confluence ; but the bar at its mouth has scarcely more than three feet of water, 
so that shipping is obliged to anchor at some distance from the estuary. 

The next large river going east from the Ulua is the Aguan or Romano, which 
enters the sea through two channels between Capes Honduras (Caxinas) and 
Cameron. The Romano, which is said to have a course of over 120 miles, traverses 
a forest region of great sylvan beauty abounding in auriferous sands. But it Is 
a less copious stream than the Patuca, whose various sources flow from the Misoco 
and Chile ranges and unite in a single channel above the formidable gorge of the 
Portal del Infierno, or " Hell-gate." From this point the Patuca is navigable for 
the rest of its course to its mouth, which presents the same dlfla.culties as those of 
all the other estuaries along this coast. 

The abundjiut alluvia of the EIo Patuca have advanced in a sharp point beyond 
the normal shore-line, enclosing right and left shallow marine lagoons, which 



communicate through several channels \rith the open sea. On the west is the 
Bnis (Brewer) lagoon ; on the east the much larger Caratasca (Cartago) basin, 
with a depth of 16 feet in the centre. The grassy shores of these inlets are dotted 
over with clumps of fir and other trees, giving the landscape the aspect of an 
English park. 

Although everywhere navigable, the Honduras waters rest on a submarine 
bed scarcely more than 50 fathoms deep, with banks, reefs, and islets rising 
above the surface. This plateau extends seawards for a mean distance of about 
18 or 20 miles, when the sounding-line plimges suddenly iuto depths of 

Fig. 112.— Bat Isla^-ds. 
Scale 1 : 1,500,000. 


to 100 

100 Fathoms 
and apwanls. 

_^_ SO Miles. 

500 fathoms. Beyond Cape Cameron the shallows extend to ilosquito Bank, 
which projects for nearly 130 miles ia the direction of Jamaica. The plateau, 
which has an average depth of "about 20 fathoms, reproduces east of Honduras 
the same limestone formation as the submerged terrace encircling the Yucatan 

Above the submariae bed rises a long line of coralline islets, which are 
collectively called the Bay Islands, but of which one alone, UtUa, deserves the 
name of island. Utila stands at the western extremity of the group, at the very 
edge of the plateau, where the soundings suddenly reveal depths of over 200 fathoms 



on the north side. Roatan, Elena, Barbareta (Borburata), Bonaca and the other 
members of the group all lie in deep water, and are disposed in the direction from 
west-south-west to east-north-east. Roatan, which is by far the largest, is 30 
miles long, and is continued eastwards by Elena and Barbareta. Although 
scarcely a mile wide, Roatan has a few hills, culminating westwards in an eminence 
800 feet high. Bonaca (Guanaja), the lala de Pinos of Columbus, which lies at 
the eastern extremity of the group, is still more elevated, its pine-clad granite 
peak rising to a height of 1,200 feet. 

On the southern slope of Honduras, the two most copious streams are the 
Goascoran, the lower course of which forms the boundary-line towards Salvador, 
and the Choluteca, whose basin is entirely comprised within Honduras territorj^ 

The Choluteca flows from the Lepaterique hills to the marine inlet, to which. 
In 1522, GO. Gonzalez de Avila gave the name of Fonseca, in honour of Cortes' 
relentless enemy, Bishop Fonseca. This vast basin has a superficial area of over 
800 square miles, with a breadth of 22 miles between the two outer headlands of 
Coseguina and Amapala. The narrowest of the four navigable passages by which 
it communicates with the sea is about two miles wide between the Conchagua 
and Conchaguita volcanoes, with a mean depth of about 40 feet. Within these 
passages the gulf develops several secondary inlets, such as those of L'Estero Real 
and La Union, the former penetrating south-eastwards into Nicaragua, the latter 
north-westwards into Salvador. Above the surface rise several reefs and islands, 
conspicuous amongst which is the symmetrical cone of Tiger Island. Notwith- 
standing its great extent, the Gulf of Fonseca is too shallow to be regarded as a 
marine basin ; it is probably little more than a flooded depression, nowhere more 
than ten fathoms deep, and navigable only by vessels of moderate draught. 

Climate, Fi-ora, Fauna. 

Owing to its mean elevation of at least 3,000 feet above the sea, Honduras 
enjoys a comparatively temperate climate, though the low-lying coastlands are 
oppressively hot and insalubrious. The Atlantic seaboard especially suffers from 
the excess of moisture brought by the vapour-charged trade winds. Here the 
mean temperature ranges from 75° to 82° Fahr., whereas it is scarcely more than 
68° at the capital, Tegucigalpa, which stands at an altitude of 3,320 feet. Accord- 
ing to Squier, the annual rainfall on the Atlantic slope is about 120 inches. 

The Central American flora and fauna differ in details only at their two 
exiremities, the isthmuses of Tehuantepec and Darien. But here and there sharp 
transitions occur between the species, and in certain regions the secondary 
differences between the various orffanic forms are more numerous than elsewhere. 
Such is the case in central Honduras, where the Humuya and Goascoran valleys 
with the intermediate depression constitute a natural biological parting-line. Hero 
the flora and fauna on either side often present remarkable contrasts. One of the 
characteristic Honduras trees is the pine, which occurs in all the upland districts, 
and even on both slopes down to the vicinity of the Pacific coast. But here it 



does not reach lower than an altihiclc of about 1,250 feet, whereas on the Atlantic 
slopes, especially on the plains of Sula, it descends as low as 250 feet, while along 
the watercourses of Truxillo it is dotted over the savannas like the clumj^s of trees 
characteristic of English scenery. 


About three-fourths of the population of Honduras appear to be Laiinos, or 
more or loss civilised Hispano-American half-castes. The pure Indian element 
scarcely numbers 70,000 altogether, and CA'en these " wild tribes " now live at 
peace with their Spanish-speaking rulers, and recognise their authority. To the 
Spanish conquerors their forefathers had offered a brave and steadfast resistance, 
and those of the interior at least escaped extermination, whereas most of those 
dwelling on the coastlands, or along the navigable rivers, were carried away by the 
corsairs, to perish on the plantations of the West Indies. 

In the western parts of the republic the natives are of the same speech as those 
of Guatemala. Such are the Chorti of Copan, kinsmen of the Pokoman Mayas. 
The most remarkable historic ruins of Honduras have been discovered in their 
territory, and the builders of these monuments are supposed to have been the 
ancestors of the Indians still inhabiting the district. Hence the Chorti were 
probably fully as civilised as the Aztecs and ilayas, and even if the other natives 
of Honduras have left no such monuments, they were all at least settled agricul- 
turists and skilled artisans. Various Aztec geographical terms occurring in south 
Honduras show that Aztec was regarded as the language of culture in a pre- 
eminent sense. 

At present the Honduras Indians are collectively designated by the name of 
Lencas. Tillages exclusively inhabited by them are scattered over the plateau, and 
are met even in the neighbourhood of the two capitals, Comayagua and Teguci- 
galpa. To the same stock belong the Xicacs (Hicacos), the Payas and the Toacas 
of the northern slopes and Atlantic coastlands. 

AU resemble each other in their low stature, thickset frames, and extraordinary 
staying power as carriers of heavy loads. The Toacas, who occupy the upper 
afEuents of the Patuca, and who shoot the dangerous rapids of that river in their 
light but firm ^j)};rt«/es of cedar-wood, also produce excellent cotton or wild silk 
fabrics interwoven with the down of birds. They speak a dialect different from 
that of the other Lencas, as do also the Xicacs, who number about 5,000 and keep 
quite aloof from the Ladinos. 

The Payas or Poyas of the Rio Negro near Cape Cameron have preserved their 
patriarchal customs ; like the Pueblo Indians of 'New ^Mexico and Arizona, they still 
dwell in large oval houses about 80 feet long by 30 feet broad, in which each family 
has its own apartments. The Payas, like all the other natives, call themselves 
Catholics, but this formal profession of faith is merely an act of submission to the 
dominant white race. 

After the extermination of the coast Indians negroes became niunerous along 
the seaboard. About the beginning of the seventeenth century a large slaver was 


said to have been stranded near Cape Gracias-a-Dios, and the Africans, escaping 
from the wreck, founded a petty republican state in the district. Later they were 
joined by other fugitives from the "West Indies ; then some English planters 
introduced slaves and founded settlements in the hope of conquering the country. 
Gradually transformed by interminglings, the whole of this black population 
consisted at the end of the last century mainly of Sambos, that is, negro and 
Indian half-breeds. They were numerous, especially about the lower Patuca and 
the neighbouring Brus and Caratasca lagoons ; but a great invasion drove most of 
them southwards to the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua. 

The invaders were themselves exiles, some 5,000 Carib Indians removed in 
1796 by the English from St. Yincent to Roatan, one of the Bay Islands. Many 
remained as fishers and gardeners on this and other members of the group, but the 
majority accepted the offer made them by the Spanish Government of some lands 
near Trusillo on the Honduras coast. These Carib exiles from St. Yincent have 
gradually become the dominant race, not only in the Baj' Islands, but along the 
whole of the Honduras and Guatemalan seaboard, as well as throughout the 
southern part of British Honduras. They are at present estimated at about 
20,000, and are a thriving industrious people, many already owning sugar and 
tobacco plantations besides local factories. 

Nearly all are more or less famihar with three languages, English, Spanish, 
and their West Indian mother-tongue, which, however, appears to be dying out. 
But while these communities are being gradually assimilated to the surrounding 
Europcauised popidations, there are many other Honduras Caribs who, while 
callui" themselves " Cristianos," still retain many of the usages of their pagan 
ancestors. They practise polygamy on the condition of assigning to each wife 
her separate establishment, cottage, and garden, and treating all exactly alike. 

On the Atlantic coast of Honduras, the English and Indian half-castes are the 
most numerous element, and a more or less corrupt form of English is the 
dominant language in many districts. This is partly due to the neighbourhood 
of Belize, partly also to the repeated attempts made by the English Government to 
acquire formal possession of the whole seaboard. In the last century the Jamaica 
freebooters had become masters of the Eio Negro (Tinto or Poya), where their 
plantations were protected by a fort, which, however, they had to evacuate in 
virtue of the treaty of Yersailles. 

But they attempted to return, as they had returned to Belize, and after seizing 
the Bay Islands, spoke of Roatan as a " new Gibraltar," the " key to Spanish 
America," and so forth. In 1819 Sir Gregor Macgregor, who had become cacique 
of the Payas, settled on the Rio Negro and founded a paper kingdom embracing a 
great part of Honduras and Nicaragua. Again in 1839 an English company, heirs 
to the Scottish cacique, endeavoured to appropriate the Atlantic slope of Honduras 
by founding the new province of " Yictoria," with its capital, Fort "William, over 
against the Bay Islands. But all these attempts at gaining a footing in Honduras 
were brought to a close by the intervention of the United States in 1850, when the 
disputed territories were restored to Hondvu-as. 



Copan, which has given its name to the westernmost department of the 
republic, has become famous for the surrounding ruins, which were first described 
in 1576 by Palacio in a report to Philip II. They were then forgotten till the 
present century, when they were again visited and described hy Galindo, Stephens, 
and Catherwood. The chief building rises to a height of GO, and in some parts 
even 100 feet on the banks of the River Copan, three-quarters of a mile to the east 
of the village. Since its erection the river has evidently shifted its bed farther 
south, where it has eroded the base of the edifice. Trees also spring from the 
fissures in the masonry, while the summits are entirely clothed in vegetation. 
An opening, to which the j^ile is indebted for its Spanish name of Las Vcutanas, 
the " Windows," reveals the dense thicket now filling the inner courts of the temple. 

The irregular enclosing walls on the sides away from the river are flanked by 
pyramids, and interrupted by broad flights of steps, mostly forced upwards by the 
roots of trees. The numerous idols, which have also been displaced or else half 
buried in foliage, consist of sandstone monoliths, carved with a profusion of details 
unsurpassed by those of the Hindu temples. The central figure, of colossal size, 
but carefully modelled, is surrounded by reliefs of all kinds, ornaments, symbols, 
and hieroglj-phics, difi^ering little from those covering the Maya monuments. 
The huge blocks described as altars are for the most part less elaborately 
embellished than the vertical steles of the idols ; but most of them reproduce the 
type of high heads, prominent jaws, and receding foreheads figured on the temples 
of Tabasco and Yucatan. 

Still more remarkable is a semicircular altar, exactly like the fai-l;i of the 
Chinese, sj-mbolising the " great vault," the " pole of the world," the union of 
force and matter, the principle without beginning or end. 

The whole group of ruins stretches for some miles along the river, and an 
eminence 2,000 feet high on the opposite side is also crowned with crumbling 
walls, while huge blocks, intended for fresh structures, have been left unfinished 
in the surrounding quarries. The village of Cachapa, seven miles above Copan, 
also occupies the site of a ruined city. 

Santa Rosa, capital of the department of Copan, lies in the fertile district of 
Sensenti, which is watered by the Santiago branch of the Ulua, and which yields 
the best tobacco in Honduras. The Majocote afiluent of the same river traverses 
Gracias, which is also the capital of a department abounding in mineral w'ealth. 
Gracias was founded by Alvarado's lieutenant, Chavez, in 1536. 

Santa Bavhara, on a lateral tributary of the Santiago, is the chief town of the 
favoured department which comprises the rich plain of Sula, the alluvial lauds 
of the lower Ulua and Chamelicon, and the best ports on the Atlantic coast. But 
the Sula district, densely peopled before the conquest, is now almost deserted, 
though the town of San Pedro de Sula, on the west side of the plain, is the most 
important agricultural centre in the state. 

The chief seaports in the department of Santa Barbara, and on the whole sea- 



board on the Atlantic side, are Puerto Cortes and Omoa, both of which lie to the 
west of the Ulua and Chamelicon estuaries. Puerto Cortes owes its name to the 
Mexican conqueror, who founded it at the time of his Honduras expedition ; but 
it is now more commonly known as Puerto Caballos. The harbour is enclosed by 
a tongue of land projecting westwards, and sheltering it from the winds and surf 
of the high seas. This spacious and deep basin might easily be greatly enlarged 

Pig-. 113.— Ptteeto Coetes and Lake Aivaeabo. 

Scale 1 : 60.000. 

SnndB exposed 
at low water. 


to 5 Stathoms 

Fathoms. and upwiirda- 

—^ 1, ICO Yards. 

by the Alvarado lagoon, with which it already communicates through a channel 
about six feet deep. 

But despite its manifold advantages, Puerto Caballos, being exposed to the attacks 
of the buccaneers, was long abandoned for the more ea.sily protected port of Omoa, 
which is approached by a narrow passage six miles farther west. Now, however, 
Puerto Caballos has resumed its former importance as the terminus of a railway run- 
ning southwards to San Pedro de Sula for Comayagua, and eventually for the Pacific 
coast. Naco, famous at the time of the conquest, has disappeared, but it probably 
stood at the mouth of the Chamelicon, 


Puerto Sal and Tn'unfo, lying east of the Ulua, are merely exposed roadsteads, 
followed by the much more frequented port of Progreso, which is formed hx an 
indentation on the south side of Eoatan Island, penfectly sheltered from all 
winds, but a hotbed of deadly fevers. 

Truxillo, founded in 1524, and chosen as the capital of the new department of 
Colon, is also well protected from the trade winds by a promontory disposed, like 
that of Puerto Caballos, from east to west, and enclosing a basia accessible to the 
largest vessels. But the town is a mere collection of huts, inhabited by a few 
hundred Caribs, who are engaged in the export trade of mahogany, sarsaparilla, 
cattle, hides, and other produce brought down by convoys of mules from the mag- 
nificent province of Olancho. 

This highly-favoured upland region, watered by the headstreams of the Patuca 
and Eomano rivers, enjoys a perfectly salubrious climate ; its soil is extremely 
fertile, forest glades and woodlands alternating with rich arable tracts and 
savannas under succulent herbage, while copious streams flow through every 
valley, washing down auriferous sands from the wooded and picturesque slopes of 
the encircling heights. On an affluent of the Patuca stands the little town of 
JutigaljM, and in the neighbourhood the Indian village of Cafacamas, the products 
of whose industry might be forwarded northwards by the Eomano Yalley to 
Truxillo, south-westwards by the mountain passes leading down to the Gioluteca 
Yalley, and north-westwards by the Patuca river, accessible to the Carib canoes 
to the port of Belon, within a few leagues of Jutigalpa. Yet, with all its 
exceptional advantages, this glorious region is stUl almost deserted. For the whole 
of the extensive department of Olancho, the last census returned a population of 
little over 30,000, while that of Colon, comprising all the noith-west comer of 
Honduras, is occupied by less than 3,000 natives ; altogether scarcely 35,000 in 
a region where millions might easily be supported without any overcrowding, as 
in some of the "\Yest India Islands under the same latitude. 

Comai/agiia, chief town of the department of like name, and former capital of 
the republic, stands at an altitude of 2,000 feet on an extensive plain about mid- 
way between the two oceans. Founded in 1540 by Alonzo Caceres, Niiera Val/a- 
dolid, as it was fonnerly called, was a prosperous city of nearly 20,000 inhabitants 
before the year 1827, when it was besieged, taken, and sacked by the Guatemalan 
" Serviles." It never recovered from that blow, and at present its chief attractions 
are the numerous ruins of ancient cities by which it is everywhere surrounded. 
Of these the most remarkable is Tenamjiua (Piieb/o Viejo), standing on a lofty 
eminence nearly 20 miles south-east of Comayagua, and comprising within its 
enclosures a number of apparently religious edifices, pyramids, terraces, sculptures, 
and much painted pottery. 

West of the department of La Paz, whose present capital, La Paz, stands on the 
site of the ancient city of Las Piedras, the chief place towards the Salvador frontier 
is Esperanza, not far from the famous Erandique opal mines. Xear Virtiid, in the 
same hiUy district of Intibucat, is seen the remarkable cave of the " Agua de 
Sangre," a red fluid which coagulates as it falls and then putrefies, emitting an 


odour of blood. Tho liquid, which owes its colour and peculiar properties to the 
living organisms contained in it, affords a certain nourishment to birds and other 

The most densely-peopled part of Honduras is the basia of the Choluteca river, 
which descends to the Pacific at the Gulf of Fonseca. The iipper portion of the 
basin, which forms a natural transition between Salvador and Nicaragua west and 
east, comprises the department of Tegucigalpa, which gives its name to the present 
capital of the republic. This place almost suddenly acquired great importance in 
the year 1762 as the centre of a region abounding in gold and silver mines. 
Between 1778 and 1819 the Tegucigalpa district yielded nearly £40,000,000 to 
the trade of the world, and mining operations, interrupted by wars, revolutions, 
and oscillations in the value of the precious metals, have in recent times again 
been actively resumed. 

Teo^ucigalpa, chosen in 1880 as the seat of congress, and even designated as a 
future capital of the Central American Confederation, is by far the largest place in 
the republic, and is increasing from year to year. It rises in amphitheatrical form 
at the foot of a steep mountain on the right bank of the Choluteca, which is here 
crossed by a ten-arched bridge. Concepcion, on the opposite side of the river, 
forms an integral part of the city. 

Two other departments, also abounding in mineral resources, are comprised 
within the Choluteca basin. One of those, whose capital, Yuscaran, dates from the 
middle of the eighteenth century, has received the well-merited designation of 
Paraiso, or "Paradise," while the other takes the name of the river and of the 
Indian nation dwelling on its banks ; Choluteca, its capital, on the left side of 
the estuary, was the Xo-es de la Fronfera of the early settlers. 

Nacaomc, on the river of like name, which also flows into the Gulf of Fonseca, 
but much farther west, is noted for its mineral waters. Its port of San Lorenzo 
stands at the northern extremity of the inlet of like name, where shipping finds 
good anchorage in depths of 22 to 24 feet close to the shore. One of the projected 
interoceanic railways has its terminus at this port ; another is carried over the Rio 
Nacaome near its mouth, and, after crossing the marshy backwaters between 
Gueo-ensi and Sacate Grande and the mainland, terminates on the west side of the 
latter island over against a vast roadstead some 20 square miles in extent, and 
from 30 to 50 feet deep, close to the future terminus. 

Pending the construction of this important line, Amapala, the seaport of 
Honduras on the Pacific, stands on the north-west side of Tiger Island, at one time 
a stronghold of tho buccaneers. Sacate Grande and Tiger Islands both belonged 
formerly to Salvador, which allowed Honduras to occupy them in 1833 in return 
for her co-operation in tho local wars. 

Economic Condition of Honduras. 
Although fully one-half of Honduras is still almost a vast solitude, its popu- 
lation has increased at least threefold since the beginning of the century. The 
first census, taken in 1791, gave a population of 95,500, while the last (June, 

I— i 









1887) returned a total of 332,000, of whom nearly three-fourths were Ladinos. 
The stream of immigration has not yet been directed to the state, and in the 
whole country there are scarcely 500 foreigners, apart from the so-caUed "English" 
immigrants from Belize and Jamaica. 

Honduras has developed no industries, and even its agricultural produce 
scarcely suflSces for more than the local demand. The banana, caoutchouc and 
coffee plantations have, however, in recent years acquired some importance, while 
the tobacco of Copan and Santa Rosa has long been appreciated. Xext to gold 
and silver, the chief staple of the export trade was timber, especially the 

Fig. 114. — FoNSECA Bay. 

Scale 1 : 1,C«0.0C0. 

West-oF GreenwicK 



5 to 12 


12 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

, IS iines. 

mahogany, which reaches its greatest perfection in the forests of Honduras. 
But the finest trees have been recklessly felled without any attempt at replanting, 
and as maho<ninv takes three himdred vears to arrive at matuiitv, the sources of 
supply threaten to be soon exhausted. 

The Honduras exchanges are estimated at a yearly value of about £1,200,000, 
the exports consisting of minerals, cattle, and products of the soU, the imports 
almost exclusively of manufactured goods. Five-sixths of the foreign trade is 
carried on with the United States. 

Owing to the reckless speculations connected with railway projects the name 
of Hondiu-as has become one of the most notorious in the financial world. Of 



£5,200,000 borrowed in recent years ostensibly to construct interoceanic and 
other lines, not more than £700,000 were actually expended on railway works. 
Hence Honduras is naturally unable to meet her engagements, however reluctant 
she may be to repudiate them. No doubt the revenue continues to increase, but 
it is drawn chiefly from the ciistoms and monopolies on gunpowder, spirits, and 
tobacco, which do not admit of raj)id expansion. The public debt with arrears of 
interest amounted in 1890 to £7,645,000, representing over forty years of normal 

Fig'. 115.— CoMPAEATiTE Debts of Vakious States 



S. African Rep. 




Su'itzeilitiHl ., 



1. -100.000 





S. Domingo 









\ i2,it*:'.ooo 


1 ,. 13.L>4<',000 
1 IJ-SOillMKl 

Uruguay .... 1 i-'"' Ain Ofto I 


1 ... 19.o2i).<XX) 

1 m.'i'^IHVW 

Greece ^ ai.ftWdOO ! 


~ . 2t3,120.(H)0 


,,. ai,04i 1.000 


1 . 63,<^),0«) 

Argentine . 

„ . . 



Germany . ^ 

__ . oo.5g;j.i-oo 


1 122.M0,000 


', - . 123,080,000 

^ 224,000,000 

1 .... 208.000.000 

United States i 

Spain i. ■ 

Italv 1 

1 , - 45i.000.(l00 

Russia i ^ 

_ ., 473,060,000 

Austria-Hunifiiry i, _„ _ 

' 600.000.000 

.._ . _ esfi.jjxtnoo 

f/////M>^,.'//.Ay. , ■ j I'ranci.' i-I,2i^^,7-_\i,IM->. [ ■ . ' , .^//^ 

revenue and about £40 per head of the population. As no interest has been paid 
since 1872, the state is virtually bankrupt. 

The interoceanic railway, which served as the pretext for this formidable debt, 
is far from being finished. The only completed section, about 56 miles, or one- 
fourth of the whole length, runs from Puerto Caballos across the Sula plain, where 
no heavy engineering works had to be executed. To finish the whole line a new 
company had to be formed, fresh surveys taken, and attempts made to raise 
more money. But the £8,000,000 required to complete this and other lines 
from Puerto Caballos to Truxillo, and thence to Jutigalpa, have not yet been sub- 

Meanwhile carriage-roads are projected for the transport of heavy goods 



over the mountain passes between the Atlantic and Pacific slopes. The 
two main highways are the interoceanic route through Comavagua, and 
that running from Sensenti through Intibucat, La Paz, and Tegucigalpa to 

The postal and telegraph services are still iu their infancy compared with 
those of Mexico, as might be expected in a country where the great mass of the 
population is still absolutely imlettered. In 1887 not more than 19,000 adults 

Fig. 116. — Debt pee Head of PoprLAxios ra Vawous Cottsteies. 



Swiaerland r 

Xonray — - 

S> 3 

» * 2 

8 8 

13 8 

19 7 

112 8 

-\ ... 1 13 4 

-i 2 SU 

-, - S S 3 

3 18 

Japan ^- 

Xicaraziui — 
Salrailor .. . 

Mexico -^- 

Boiiria — 

Sw&lea .... -- 



Ecuador .... 

Colombia .. : — 

Turkey — - 

United Stntes ' — 

S. Afrlca!i K?p. \ — 

Russia i — 

- 3 110 

3 2 1 
3 2 6 
3 6 1 

— ; 3 6 6 

— , .. 3 7 1 
— ^ .. 3U 2 
— ; .434 
— ■ .480 

Denmark ;= 

; 5 12 6 


\ ;i™ » 

11 9 * 

H 1ft 



16 13 4 

-. 17 7 3 

Peru - .'. . f 

^ 21 8 4 

P'TTiinl p ., ' 

could read and write, and only 74,000 children were receiving any kind of 
education. In the same year the periodical press was limited to four journals. 

The government of Honduras differs only in a few minor details from those 
of the other Central American republics. The constitution has been frequently 
modified between the years 1824 and 1883, during which period as many as forty- 
eight rulers have succeeded under various titles to the supreme power. In normal 
times the president is elected for four years by universal suffrage, and is assisted 
by a council of seven ministers for foreign affairs, the interior, public works, war, 
finance, public iastruction, and justice. The legislative functions are discharged 
by a congress of 37 members returned by the various departments in proportion 
to the population. 



The armj' consists legally of all able-bodied unmarried men between the ages 
of twenty and twenty-five, regulars and reserves comprising altogether about 
25,000 of all arms. Usually, however, there are scarcely more than 500 engaged 
in garrison duty. 

For administrative purposes the republic is divided into thirteen departments, 
for which see Appendix. 

V. — Nicaragua. 

Nicaragua is the largest, but relatively the least densely-peopled, of all the 
Central American states. Yet within its limits is found the true centre of the 

Fig. 117.— Teeeitoey clahted at Vaeiou3 Times by Geeat Beitain. 
Scale 1 : 17,000,000. 

4^ -^ 

-- iS.Juan.J,! Norl- 

West of" b^eenvvicK 

. 310 Milea. 

isthmian region, and one of the cardinal points in the history of the New "World. 
This privileged region is the narrow strip of territory comprised between the 
Pacific and the shores of Lakes Managua and Nicaragua. Here reigned the famous 
cacique, Nicarao, whose name has been perpetuated in a Spanish form as that of 
the Ilispano-American republic. 

Like Honduras, Nicaragua suffered much from the incursions of the corsairs 
on its Atlantic side, and here, also. Great Britain long sought to secure a perma- 
nent footing. The section of the seaboard known as Mosquitia, or the Mosquito 
Coast, was even claimed by the English Government, and but for the intervention 
of the United States, the whole space comprised between the Nicaragua Eiver and 
Honduras Bay would have become British territory. In virtue of the Monroe 
doctriue, " America for the Americans," this territory was restored to the republic 


of Nicaragua, though its independence was again threatened in 1855 by the 
American National party itself. In that year the American adventurer, Walker, 
one of those men " who have all the qualities required for the throne or the 
gibbet," came to the aid of one of the native factions with over 12,000 filibusters, 
who were to be rewarded with extensive grants of land for their future victories. 

After a first repulse at the town of Rivas, Walker seized Granada, the chief 
city of the republic, and secured the election of his nominee to the presidential 
chair. Slavery was then revived, and an attempt made to attract capitalists with 
the view of converting Nicaragua into one vast plantation, on the model of the 
" Cotton States," such as Mississippi and South Carolina. But all the peoples of 
Central America had already taken the alarm, and a league was formed against 
the filibusters. From the south came the Costa Ricaus, from the north the 
Guatemalans, and the Nicaraguans themselves having also revolted, the adventurer 
was driven from port to port, and at last compelled to take refuge in Rivas,. where, 
after a four-months' siege, he had to capitulate in 1857. Though his life was 
spared, he twice attempted to return to Central America, but having fallen into 
the hands of the Hondurans, he was executed as a filibuster at Truxillo, in the 
year 1860. 

This failure was of more than local importance ; it was the first success of the 
abolitionist party in America itself. " I have defended the cause of the slave- 
holders abroad," said Walker when dying ; " they will soon have to defend it 
themselves In their own sugar and cotton fields." 

Since that critical epoch, Nicaragua has pursued a more tranquil course of 
development than the sister states. There has been a general increase of popula- 
tion and wealth without involving the usual consequences of civil discord and 
revolutions. Even the troublesome questions of boundaries have led to nothing 
more serious than diplomatic discussions with Honduras and Costa Rica, discus- 
sions which were finally settled by the mediation of the United States Government, 
appealed to as arbitrator. 

Apart from a few slight deviations, the two bold lines traced on the map, on 
one side by the course of the Rio Segovia, on the other by the southern shore of 
Lake Nicaragua and the bed of the Rio San Juan, are regarded as the frontiers 
of Nicaragua towards Honduras on the north and Costa Rica on the south. 

Physical Features. 

The Nicaraguan main range forms a south-eastern continuation of the Chile 
Mountains in Honduras, running parallel with the Pacific coast, with peaks 
ranging from over 3,000 to 4,000 feet In height. The chain falls gradually- 
southwards, rising to a mean altitude of scarcely more than 650 or 700 feet along 
the east side of Lake Nicaragua. This irregular system may be roughly regarded 
as the escarpment of an ancient plateau falling abruptly westwards, and Inclining 
eastwards to the Atlantic through a long declivity disposed by the running waters 
in numerous divergent valleys. Those of north Nicaragua run north-east 


parallel witli tlie E,io Segovia, and those of the centre due east, while those of the 
south, as, for instance, the valley traversed by the Rio San Juan, have a south- 
easterly trend. 

In several places these fragmentary sections of the plateau present the aspect 
of distinct sierras. Such are, iu the north, the Sierra de Yeluca, and in the 
south that of Yolaina, which terminates seawards in the Punta ilico, the Monkey 
Point of English writers. Amongst the various foot-hills of the main range, 
there is one ridge which had passed unnoticed by all goographei's till indicated 
for the first time by the naturalist Belt, in 1874, when it attracted universal 
attention owing to the curious resemblance of its name to that of the New World 
itself. This is the little Sierra d'Amerrique, near Libertad, otherwise remarkable 
for its sheer rockj^ walls, its obelisks and huge isolated crags. The name of the 
continent has now been connected by M. Marcou with these hitherto unknown 
rugged heights, the theory being that Amerigo Vespucci and other early naviga- 
tors hoard the natives speak of the hills in question as abounding in treasures, and 
then applied the term to the whole region ; thereupon it occurred to Amerigo to 
turn to his personal glory the accidental resemblance of this name to his own. 

The Sierra d'Amerrique, called also Amerisque and Amerrisque from a local 
tribe said to have been formerly powerful, lies in the territory of the ancient 
Lencas, as is shown by the ending riqm generally occurring in the Honduras 
regions inhabited by these Indians. 

West of the Nicaraguan main range, the region facing the Pacific was originally 
an extensive low-lj'ing plain, where the underground forces have raised two lines 
of eminences, or even mountains, some isolated, others forming veritable chains. 
The first of these ranges is so inconspicuous that, when seen from the plain, it seems 
merged in the chain disposed immediately to the east of it. Its indistinct cha- 
racter is due to the fact that the volcanoes have been upheaved on the very flanks 
of the plateau. Thus Guisisil (4,550 feet) rises in close proximity to the Mata- 
galpa Mountains, and by damming up the waters formerly descending to the 
Pacific, has deflected them through the Rio Grande eastwards to the Atlantic. 

South-west of Guisisil, loftiest of these volcanoes, other cones have emerged 
along the depression which is flooded by the two Lakes Managua and Nicaragua ; 
here the Cerro de la Palma, Cuisaltepe, Juigalpa, Platotepe, Pan de Azucar, Jaen, 
Picara and the Ventanillas are all disposed in a line running close to the east side 
of the great reservoir. 

But far more important in the geological history of the country are the peaks 
of the main range, which forms a continuation of the Salvador volcanic system. 
The truncated cone of Coseguina, at the southern entrance of the Gulf of Fonseca 
■opposite Conchagua, is the first link in this igneous chain ; it still rises 3,860 feet 
above the sea, but according to Belcher, the regular cone must have been at least 
double that height. Before the Krakatau explosion, Coseguina was usually referred 
to with Timboro, of Sumbawa Island, as a typical example of the tremendous catas- 
trophes caused by the sudden escape of gases pent up in the bowels of the earth. 
On January 20, 1835, the summit of Coseguina was blown to atoms, day was 



changed to night for a space of several hundred square miles, the sea was covered 
with a dense layer of ashes and scoriae arresting the progress of ships for a distance 
of over 25 miles from the volcano, all verdure disappeared under a bed of dust at 
least 16 feet thick, and the very shoreline encroached on the ocean and on the Gulf 
of Fonseca. Westwards the trade winds wafted the dust 1,380 miles across the sea, 
eastwards the counter-current precipitated it on Honduras, Yucatan, and Jamaica, 

Fipr- 118- — MoMEACHO Volcano and Shobes op Lake Nicaeaoua. 

while the aerial eddies carried the ashes southwards to New Grenada. The crash 
of the ruptured mountain was heard on the Bogota uplands, a distance of over 
1,000 miles as the crow flies. Altogether the ashes fell on a space of about 
1,600,000 square miles, while the erupted matter was estimated at 1,750 billions of 
cubic feet. The explosion lasted forty- three hours, but the people of the sur- 
rounding plains had time to escape, with their domestic animals, followed by 
wild beasts, birds and reptiles, beyond the reach of the stifling gases. 

Some 30 miles south-east of Coseguina rises the twin-crested mass of the 



extinct Chonco and Viejo (6,300 feet) cones, beyond whicli follows tlie Marrabios 
range of peaks, mostly little over 3,000 feet, but culminating about the centre of 
tbe system in Telica, 4,200 feet bigh. Somewbat east of tbe Marrabios tbe series 
of volcanoes is continued by tbe majestic Momotombo (6,150 feet), wbose base 
forms a promontory in Lake Managua, and wbicb bas been in eruption so recently 
as 1852. Formerly tbe missionaries baptised tbe burning mountains, but some 
monks wbo bad undertaken to plant tbe cross on Momotombo never returned. 

Cbiltepec (2,800 feet), wbicb rises out of tbe very waters of Managua, is 
followed by some less elevated cones on tbe mainland, wbere tbey are in close 
proximity to lagoons evidently at one time forming part of tbe lake. About 
midwaj' between tbe two basins stands tbe famous Masaya (2,800 feet), wbicb was 
formerly known to the Spaniards by tbe name of Infierno, " Hell," and wbicb in 
pre-Columbian times was said to bave borne tbe name of Popocatepetl, like tbe 
Mexican giant. 

Masaya, tbat is, tbe "Burning Mountain," was first ascended by Oviedo, wbo 
saw its crater filled with boiling lavas. At that time slight eruptions occurred 
at almost regular intervals of fifteen minutes, and the yellow fluid bubbling up on 
the bed of tbe crater was supposed to be molten gold. Two Spanish monks, accom- 
panied by three fellow-countrj-men and many Indians, having failed to secure any 
of the precious liquid, it occurred to Juan Alvarez, dean of tbe chapter of Leon, 
to tap the perennial stream by means of a tunnel driven through the flank of the 
moimtain. But before the work could be seriously taken in hand, Masaya boUed 
over of its own accord in 1772, and since then it has been quiescent, except in 1852 
when it ejected a few jets of vapour. But in 1856, Nindiri, a parasitic crater on 
its flank, discharged large quantities of vapour. 

Mombacho (4,600 feet), which stands on tbe same pedestal as Masaya, but on 
tbe north-west shore of Lake Nicaragua, has long been extinct. But its former 
energy is attested by tbe surrounding lava streams and by tbe Corales, a cluster of 
eruptive islets encircling its submerged base. 

South-west of Mombacho the volcanic chain is continued In the lake itself, first 
by Zapatera (2,000 feet), and then by the large twin-crested island of Ometepe 
tbat is, the Mexican- Aztec Ome-tepetl, " Two Mountains," 5,360 and 4,200 feet 
respectively. The summit of Ometepe is crowned by a flooded crater, and on the 
flank of tbe mountain is a still larger crater overgrown with dense vegetation. 
From the top of the mountain a wide prospect is commanded of the whole lake, 
the narrow isthmus separating it from the Pacific, and the amphitheatre of bills 
sweeping round the eastern horizon. 

"West of the two lakes the isthmus constituting Nicaragua proper has also its 
little coast-range, of moderate elevation and interrupted by numerous gaps. 
Venturon, the culminating crest, is only 800 feet high, while the lowest pass 
scarcely stands more than 25 or 26 feet above the level of the lake, which at the 
narrowest point is rather less than 13 miles from the Pacific. In many places, 
the isthmian region is entirelj' covered by the so-called ialpdatc or tepdate, that is, 
eruptive matter deposited under the influence of the prevailing south-west trade 



winds. The consequence is that this region is destitute of springs or streams, 
all the rain water disappearing in the porous masses of scoriae and ashes. 

KI^^!Rs AXD Lakes. 

Although the Nicaraguan backbone is developed east of the lacustrine depres- 
sion, the narrow strip of land limiting Lake Nicaragua on the west side is the 
true waterparting of the whole region. The streams descending from the western 

Fig. 119. — IsTHiros or Eivas. 

Scale 1 : 1.200.000. 

V/est oF Greenwich 



5 Fatnoms 
and upwards. 

18 Hilcs. 

slopes of the Chontal Mountains do not flow to the Pacific, but after a winding 
course fi.nd their way to the Caribbean Sea. The pretended law that makes 
watersheds coincide with mountain ranges is nowhere more clearly contradicted. 

The parting-line, however, which is formed by the isthmus sends down 
nothing but rivulets on its west slope. The only Nicaraguan rivers that reach the 
Pacific have their sources on the opposite flank of the Marrabios hills, and flow to 
the Gulf of Fonseca. Such are the Estero Real, rising in the neighbourhood of 




Lake Managua, and, farther north, the Rio Negro, which has become the frontier 
towards Honduras. 

Both of these watercourses have frequently shifted their beds, owing partly to 
the erupted matter damming up their channels, and forming islands and peninsulas, 
partly also, perhaps, to seismic disturbances. Since the eruption of Coseguina 
in 1835 the Rio Negro has changed its course no less than four times, and at 

Scale 1 : S.orio.OOO 

'yS^^ii'''~^' '1^^ ^' 

West oF breenwich 

GO ALUes. 

present it intermingles its waters with those of the Estero Real in a common 

The most copious river in north Nicaragua flows, under a great diversity of 
names, from the Matagalpa moimtains through the broadest part of the state down 
to the Atlantic near Cape Gracias-a-Dios. About its sources, within 50 miles of 
the Pacific, it is known as the Somoro, and lower down successively as the Cabrugal 
(Cabullal), the Coco (Cocos), Oro (Yoro, Yare), Portillo Liso, Tapacac, Encuentro, 
Pantasma, Segovia, from a town on its banks, and Gracias, or Cape River, from 
the low peninsula it has formed where it reaches the coast. It also takes the name 


of Herbias, while the English call itTVanks or Yankes, this confusing nomenclature 
being due partly to the different languages current along its banks, partly to the 
lack of historic unity of the fluvial basin. "While the Spanish colonists were 
settling in the upper ralleys of the Eio Segovia, foreign corsairs of every nation 
were infesting its lower course. 

Pent in between mountain ranges, the "Wanks drains a relatively narrow basin, 
but, being exposed to the moist east winds, it is a copious stream accessible to small 
craft for a distance of about 170 miles below the rapids. At its mouth it projects 
its delta far seawards between banks of a reddish alluvium washed down from 
the upper valleys. The "Wanks drains an area of nearly 12,000 square miles, 
has a course of 400 miles, and a mean discharge of 17,000 cubic feet per 

Between this river and the San Juan, the largest watercourse is the Eio 
Grande, whose main branch, the ilatagalpa, probably at one time flowed west to 
Lake Managua. But having been dammed up by the heaps of scorise ejected 
from GuisisU, its course was deflected southwards and eastwards to the Atlantic. 
In one part of its valley it takes the name of Bulbul, while the Sambos of 
ilosquitia call it Awaltara. At its mouth it communicates through lateral 
channels with other watercourses, and according to Levy's chart there is a con- 
tinuous series of backwaters, false rivers, and passages extending for about 250 
miles from Cape Gracias-a-Dios to the Blewfields lagoon, separated from the sea 
by a strip of sandy beaches and mangrove thickets. Most of these waters are 
narrow and obstructed by islands ; but the Pearl Cay and Blewfields lagoons are 
veritable inland seas, in parts overgrown by mangroves, but still leaving vast 
spaces open to navigation. The Blewfields basin, said to be so named from a Dutch 
corsair, BKeveldt, receives a river of like name, called also the Eio Escondido 
about its middle course. 

From the geological standpoint the present coast between Cape Gracias-a-Dios 
and Monkey Point indicates a state of transition between the old shoreline, that 
is, the west side of the lagoons, and the great Mosquito Bank, which advances 
seawards for a variable distance of fi'om 30 to 100 miles and which comprises 
numerous submerged and upheaved cays. One of these reefs is the Mosquito Cay, 
which has given its name to the whole bank, a name afterwards extended to the 
east coast itself and its inhabitants. Some of the islands on or near the outer 
margin of the banks are large and elevated enough to support a few settlements. 
Such are Tieja Providencia and San Andres, which belong politically to the 
Eepublic of Colombia, the little Corn Islands and Pearl Cays, dependent on 

South of Monkey Point the Eio Indio reaches the coast just above the delta 
of the San Juan, which is the most copious of all the Xicaraguan rivers, but which 
only partly belongs to the republic. Most of its basin is, in fact, comprised 
within the neighbouring state of Costa Eiea, though its farthest headstream rises 
in the great lacustrine depression west of the Xicaraguan main range. Although 
the San Juan at present drains this depression to the Atlantic, there was a time 



when Lakes Nicaragua and Managua formed a continuous basin whicli sent its 
overflow to the Pacific at the Gulf of Fonseca. From that epoch dates the Intro- 
duction of the marine species, which have gradually adapted themselves to the 
fresh waters of Lake Nicaragua. 

Gil Gonzalez de Avila was assured by the natives that Lake Xolotlan (Man- 
agua) had an emissary flowing directly to the "Gulf of Chorotega" (Fonseca), 
but that the outflow was arrested by a lava stream from Momotombo. The 
emissary is now represented by the Estero Real, while Managua sought another 
Issue southwards to Lake Nicaragua, and thus became a tributary of the Atlantic. 

A slight upheaval would still sufiice to convert Managua into a closed basin. 

Fig. 121.— jMaeeabios Range and Lake Manaqtta. 
Scale 1 : 1,400,000. 

30 Jliles. 

During the rains It feeds an emissary which at the Tipltapa salto has a picturesque 
fall of 17 or 18 feet; but In the dry season there Is no continuous current, the 
water slowly percolating through the sands and fissures of the rocks. A dry 
space of over four miles separates the outflow from the estero of Panaloya, which, 
although presenting the appearance of a river. Is merely a tranquil backwater 
communicating with Lake Nicaragua. 

Even during the rains Tipltapa is completely obstructed by reefs, and in 1836 
Belcher had to transport a boat from one lake to the other. Hence It Is all the 
more surprising that projectors of Interoceanic canals should represent Tipltapa as 
the natural prolongation of a great transisthmian canal. Managua itself, although 
over 400 square miles In extent, Is obstructed by shoals, which render it 


unnavigable by vessels drawing more than five or six feet of water. It stands at 
a mean altitude of 140 feet above the sea. 

Kicaragua. the Cocibolco of the natives, stands some 30 feet lower, or about 110 
feet above sea-level. It has a mean area of 3,600 square miles ; but there are no 
abysses as in the .Alpine lakes, the deepest cavity being scarcely 280 feet deep. 
Some parts, especially near the San Juan outlet, are very shallow, and the general 
level varies with the seasons little more than seven or eight feet. But there can 
be no doubt that it formerly stood at a much higher level, for the islets south of 
Zapatera are covered with scoriae containing freshwater shells, like those still 
found on the neighbouring shores. 

During the rains vast spaces round the lake are transformed to absolutely 
impassable cienagas (quagmires), the waters from the surrounding heights pene- 
trating to a great depth into the pasty soil and converting the plains into a sea of 
mud. In the dry season the moisture evaporates, and the baked ground becomes 
fissured without anywhere clothing itself with vegetation. 

Nicaragua is fed by numerous affluents, some of which have acquired a certain 
celebrity in connection with various schemes of interoceanic canalisation ; such 
are the Eios Sapoa and de las Lajas in the isthmus of Rivas. But the most copious 
tributary is the Eio Frio descending from the Costa Eica uplands, and washing 
down vast quantities of volcanic sediment, which is gradually filling up the 
southern part of the basin, and raising its bed above the surface, as the neighbour- 
ing Solentiname archipelago has already been raised. Then the Eio Frio will 
become a tributary, not of the lake, but of the San Juan, and this river, thus 
charged with sedimentary matter, will form a chief obstacle to the proposed 
interoceanic canal. 

The San Juan, which escapes from the lake just below the mouth of the Frio, 
flows in a very sluggish stream till it approaches the Castillo, a little fort on the 
right bank 40 miles below the outlet. Here the river has forced a passage through 
the schistose ridge connecting the Chontal mountains with the Costa Eican Cerros 
de San Carlos. The rapids thus formed are followed some 12 miles lower down by 
another series of erosions, the raudal de ilachuca, so named from the first Euro- 
pean explorer of the San Juan. Farther on the mainstream is joined by the San 
Carlos, which sends down from the Costa Eican uplands a volume almost equal to 
that of the San Juan itself. A little above the delta follows the still more copious 
Sarapiqui afiluent, which also descends from the Costa Eican mountains, but which 
is so charged with alluvial matter that the idea of utilising the lower course of 
the San Juan for the proposed canal has been abandoned. 

In the delta itself the shifting branches of the mainstream are joined by 
the Ei - Colorado, a third affluent from Costa Eica. About the middle of the 
century nearly all the united waters of the San Juan basin entered the sea at 
Graytown (San Juan del Norte), where the powerful current had excavated a 
spacious harbour accessible to vessels of average draught. But most of this 
current was deflected by the opening of the Jimenez, a branch of the San Juan, 
which now joins the Colorado and whick, visually bears the same name. Other 


ctannels at times carried off all the rest, leaving the harbour half choked with 
sands and almost cut off from communication with the river. Hence it has 
been proposed to remove the jjort to the mouth of the Colorado ; but the bar, 
with from 10 to 16 feet of water, varies frequently in depth, while the road- 
stead is exposed to the dangerous north winds.* 

Climate, Flora, Fauna. 

Nicaragua Is divided by the nature of its soil and climate into three distinct 
zones, an eastern, central, and western, each presenting special features in its 
vegetation, inhabitants, social condition, and history. 

The old schistose quartz and dolerite rocks of the plateaux and mountains on 
the Atlantic slope are watered by copious rains and vapours brought by the north- 
east trade winds. Hence these regions are covered with forests interrupted only 
by river beds, swamps, and marshy savannas. Here are found all the varieties of 
timber, cabinet and dye woods of the Honduras and South Mexican floras — cedars, 
mahogany, gayac, besides the characteristic cortes {tccoma sidcro.x ijlon) , which is 
hard as ebony and remarkable for the dazzling golden blossom with which it is 
entirely clothed towards the end of March, after the fall of the green foliage. 
Owing to the superabundance of moisture this region is necessarily unhealthj' and 
sparsely inhabited, the few Indian or half-caste natives being chiefly confined to 
narrow glades in the dense woodlands. 

The range of the Atlantic rains and rank forest-growths is sharply limited by 
the crest of the main Nicaraguan chain, so that it may rain for weeks or months 
together at Libertad on the east slope, while Juigalj^a, on the Pacific side, enjoys 
cloudless skies. The eastern rains last from May to January, with occasional 
intervals of fine weather, especially in October and November. 

Immediately beyond the forest region begins the central zone of savannas, 
varied here and there by a giant ceiba, which affords a grateful shade to numerous 
flocks and herds. Here the work of man in clearing the woodlands has been 
aided by the occodoma, a species of ant, which spares the hei'bage and confines its 
attacks to the sprouts and saplings growing on the verge of the forest. According 
to Belt, these ants are veritable agriculturists. They cut the tender leaves in 
squares, not for food, as was formerly supposed, but for manure to enrich the 
underground plantations of fungi on which they chiefly live. The eciton hamata, 
another species of ant in the same region, is placed by the same naturalist in the 
first rank for its intelligence. When a brook is bridged by a single branch too 
narrow to allow a horde to cross except in Indian file, a number of the insects 
cluster on both sides of the natural causeway in such a way as to double or treble 
its width. 

Amongst the remarkable phenomena presented by the fauna of this upland 

* Hydrology of the San Juan : — From the soiu-ce of the Rio San Rafael to Lake Managrua , 94 miles ; 
Lake Managua, 28 miles ; Eio Tipitapa, 18 miles ; Lake Nicaragua, 88 miles ; Desaguadero (San Juan), 
125 miles; total. 353 miles. Extent of the basin, including the Colorado, 16,000 square miles ; discharge 
at the Lake Nicaragua outlet, 12,000 cubic feet ; at the fork of the delta, 25,000 cubic feet ; during the 
floods, 62,000 cubic feet per second. 



zone Belt also mentions the timrtcs c/iiroii, a species of butterfly, whicli moves in 
coimtless multitudes over hill and dale, always in the direction of the south-east 
towards the Mosquito Coast. They come, probably, from the remote Honduras or 
Guatemalan forests, but never return. 

The third zone comprises the lacustrine plains and Pacific seaboard, that is, 
Nicaragua in the narrower sense — the " Paradise of Mohammed," in the language 
of the Spanish conquerors — the privileged region on which the other two zones 
naturally depend. It is at once the most fertile and healthiest region of the 
republic, though exposed to the fierce westerly gales here known as jmpagayos, 
from the Gulf of Papagayo, at the south-western extremity of Nicaragua. Here 
the native populations were formerly crowded together in vast cities " four leagues 
long," and the whole isthmus between the lakes and the sea was transformed to a 
vast plantation. Hence the local flora chiefly consists of cultivated plants, and 
others associated with them. 


In Nicaragua the aborigines were exterminated, if not more ruthlessly, at all 
events, to a greater extent than elsewhere in Central America. There being no 
escape between the ocean and the lakes, the more numerous were the native com- 
munities, the more wholesale were the massacres. Even iu east Nicaragua, near 
the Caribbean Sea, many districts, formerlj^ covered with Indian villages, were 
completely depopulated by the buccaneers. Thus between Monkey Point and the 
Blewfields estuary, old cemeteries, heaj)s of potsherds, carved stones, and even 
human effigies are found in a region which is now a wilderness. The Spanish 
dwellings met along the course of the Mico are built with materials taken from 
older Indian structures. 

At present all the native populations of west Nicaragua are half-caste Ladinos. 
The Mangues, Nagrandans, Dirians, and Orotinans of the north-west are collectively 
grouped as Chorotegas, or Choroteganos, which is merely another form of Cholu- 
teca, the collective name of the neighboui'ing Honduras Indians, to whom they are 
related. Some ethnologists affiliate the Chorotegas to the Chiapanecs of east 
Mexico, while others regard them as Mayas expelled from Cholula in pre-Aztec 
times. They bore the name of Olmecs, like the jDredecessors of the Nahuas on 
the Anahuac tableland, and probabl}' belonged to the same stock. 

The final syllables of local names in various parts of Nicaragua cortainlj- indi- 
cate the presence of different peoples at different epochs. The ending, galpa, is 
Aztec, while rique denotes towns and heights on both sides of the Honduras fron- 
tier. In the valley of the Rio Segovia the names of places end in // or guina, and 
in Chontales ajM or ajm is most common. 

Fully a century before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Nahuas had advanced 
as conquerors through Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras into Nicaragua. Here 
they were known by the name of Niquii-an or Nicarao, which some etymologists 
identify with the terra Nicaragua itself. Like their Mexican kinsmen they had 
their city of Tola or Tula, and like them also practised the art of writing, carved 



statues, and erected temples scarcely inferior to those of ]\rexico and Yucatan. 
The local topographic nomenclature shows that the Aztec nJe extended over 
nearlj^ the whole of Nicaragua, although their language has ceased to be current even 
in the isthmus of Rivas, where they at one time existed in multitudes. Spanish, 
enriched by numerous Mexican expressions, has become the common speech of all. 
In their stage-pieces, representing myths, historic events, or religious dramas, the 
languao-e employed is a jargon called by Brintou the " Nuhuatl-Spanish dialect of 

Scale 1 : 7,000,000. 

West of breenwuch 

. 121 Miles. 

Nicaragua." Most of these plays are accompanied by hciiks, or dances, and nearly 
all the old musical instruments are still in use. 

As in Mexico, the conquistadores endeavoured to destroy all memorials of the 
old culture. In 1524 the missionary Bobadilla raised a huge pyre at Managua, on 
which a bonfire was made of the religious and historical paintings, calendars, 
maps, and all other Nahua and Chorotegan documents that he could lay his hands 
on. The temples were razed to the ground, the idols overthrown, the cemeteries 
desecrated ; nevertheless, down to the present century there still survived nume- 
rous sculptured stones, especially in the islands of Lake Nicaragua, which the 
Spaniards had ceased to visit after exterminating their inhabitants. In the 
island of Momotombito alone Squier saw over fifty colossal basalt monoliths 


representing tuman figures and recalling the monstrous statues of Easter Island, 

Xumerous antiquities, such as carved stones and rock inscriptions, ■were also 
found in the islands of Ceiba, Pensacola, and Zapatera. From the cemeteries of 
Ometepe, where the Xahua population has preserved its primitive purity, Brans- 
ford removed to the TTashington iluseum some eight hundred precious objects 
especially huge sepulchral urns containing seated bodies still decked ■with their 
ornaments. Another curious find made by Flint was the traces of thousands of 
human feet left on the yellow ashes ejected by llasaya and afterwards covered by 
subsequent eruptions. 

The uplands between the lacustrine and Atlantic basins are inhabited by abori- 
gines designated, like those of south-east ilexico, by the general name of Chontals, 
that is, " barbarians." Before the conquest they were already held in contempt 
by the civilised Xahuas of the plains ; nevertheless the ruins of cities and numerous 
vestiges of buildings and causeways show that these so-called barbarians had made 
considerable progress in the arts of civilisation. Gradually driven eastwards by 
the Ladinos, the Chontals have largely merged with the Zumas (Sooms, or Simus), 
the Popolacas or "Waiknas, that is, " Men," or else have altogether disappeared. 
In many districts nothing is now seen except their graves, usually disposed in a 
vast circle round the habitations. 

The Chontals appear to be related to the Lencas of Honduras ; their language 
is distinct both from Aztec and Maya, and they still number about 30,000, mostly 
designated by the names of the rivers inhabited by them. Some, however, bear 
distinct names, such as the Pantasmas of the upper Segovia, the Cucras following 
lower down, the Carcas, TV^ulwas (Uluas), Lamans, Melchoras, Siquias, and the 
Eamas of the Eio Mico, rudest of all the aborigines. 

One of the tribes on the Eio Grande has assumed the title of Montezuma, which 
for the populations of Mexico and Central America has become synonymous with 
the old national independence. This tribe, however, seems more akin to the Carib 
than to the Lenca stock. The word Carib itself, under the form of Carabisi, was 
current in this region long before the arrival of the Caribs from St. Vincent. 
"When speaking of the local idioms, Herrera mentions in the first place that of the 
Carabisi ; they have been identified with the present Zumas and Waiknas. 

On the other hand the so-called " Caribs " of the seaboard, more generally 
called Moscos or Mosquitos, are reaUy Sambos, that is, half-caste Indians and 
negroes, with a strain of European blood, due to the buccaneers who infested these 
shores. Many of the natives in the provinces of Segovia and Matagalpa have fair 
hair and blue eyes, which Belt attributes to the intermingling that took place in 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries between the local Creoles and the French 
and English corsairs. In 16S7 the 280 rovers commanded by Eavenau de Lussan, 
having abandoned their vessels in the Gulf of Fonseca, crossed the continent, here 
310 miles wide, and reached the Atlantic by the valley of the Segovia. Others 
ascended the same river, which had become " the great highway from ocean to 


Nearly all the whites who settled in the favoured isthmian regions belonged to 
the vigorous Galician race, and the Gallego type may still be recognised, though 
their Spanish patois contains but few words borrowed from the Galician dialect. 
Non-Spanish immigrants, French, Italians, English, or North Americans, are very 
few, and their arrival dates only from the middle of the present century. Yet 
European artisans and labourers might easily adapt themselves to the climate, 
especially in the Matagalpa province. 


Chinandcfja, the chief place in the north-west on the Honduras route, compi-ises 
two distinct townships. El Viejo, on the slope of the mountain of like name, and 
the new town a few miles to the south-east, to which the name of Chinaudega is 
now exclusively applied. It was at one time a flourishing place, but it has lost 
its trade since the encroachments of the land on its ports of Tempisque in the north 
and Realcjo in the west. The present harbour of Corinto is sheltered by the island 
of Cardon, and affords excellent anchorage in 22 feet of water at ebb and 40 at 
flow. Corinto, which exports large quantities of dyewoods, is by far the busiest 
seaport on the Paciiic side. 

Leon, the chief citj' of the republic, lies between Lake Managua and the two 
estuaries of Corinto and the Estero Real. At the time of the conquest its pre- 
decessor, the Indian city of Subtiaba, contained a population of about 100,000. 
But the first Spanish town of the district was founded in 1523, not on the plain 
dominated eastwards by the Marrabios chain, but at Imhita, on the south-west side 
of Lake Nicaragua. Owing to various disasters, the settlement was afterwards 
removed to the vicinity of Subtiaba, capital of the Nagrandan nation. The new 
city, seat of the administration, soon became a flourishing place, and the English 
buccaneers who sacked it in 1680 carried off a vast amount of booty. 

At the close of the eighteenth century, Leon and Subtiaba were said to have 
a collective population of 50,000 ; but during the present century this number has 
been greatly reduced, especially by wars and civil strife. In recent years Leon 
has somewhat recovered its losses, and it is now connected by rail with Corinto 
and the other isthmian towns. The neighbouring thermal waters are little fre- 
quented, the whole region round about the city being still almost a wilderness. 
During the rainy season Leon is exposed to frequent inundations, and the rudely 
paved streets at times resemble mountain torrents, the water surging up to the 
very eaves of the houses. 

Managua, the present capital of the state, was till the middle of the century a 
mere hamlet standing on the site of an Indian city some 00 feet above the level of 
Lake Managua. In the neighbourhood are the little closed basins or tarns of 
Tiscapa, Nejapa, Asososca, and Apoyo, old craters which, after bursting, were 
flooded with a brackish water, differing in its saline properties according to the 
nature of the surrounding soil and lavas. The neighbouring plains, formerly 
under cotton, are now covered with coffee plantations. 

Beyond Tipitapa and the intermittent stream bearing its name, stretch the 









forests abounding in Brazil wood {ctvsalj>inia criqm). The black marshy lands 
on the east side of the lake take the name oijica rales from the Jicaro, or calabash- 
tree, which is here the prevailing species, and whose fruit supplies the natives 
with nearly all their domestic utensils. 

Granada, like Leon, is one of the oldest places in Nicaragua, having been 
founded in 1523 by Francisco de Cordoba, near the Indian city of Salfeba (Jalfcba), 
now one of its suburbs. The fame of its wealth and of the great fertility of the 
district more than once attracted the attention of the corsairs, who, in 1665, and 
again in 1670, ascended the San Juan and crossed Lake Nicaragua to sack and 

Fig. 123.— Dexsity or the Population op Hont)ukas ajtd Nicakagua. 
Scale 1 : 7,500,000. 

Inliabitanfs per square mile. 

n a 

Under 2. 2 to 10. 

10 to 20. 

20 to 30. 

30 to 10. 
121 Milea. 

40 to 60. 60 and upwards. 

burn the city. Some fifteen years afterwards another band of English and French 
buccaneers attacked it from the Pacific side ; but before its capture most of the 
inhabitants had time to escape with their valuables to the archipelagoes of Lake 
Nicaragua. It again suffered during the expedition of the filibuster, William 
Walker, who set fire to it before abandoning it in 1856. 

Granada lies on the scarp of the plateau on the north-west side of Lake 
Nicaragua. Its buildings lay no claim to architectural beauty, and it owes its chief 
importance to its schools, its trade and industries. Several landing-places follow 
along the neighbouring shore ; but Charco Muerto is the only town possessing a 


good haven. It lies far to the south, and is sheltered by Zapatcra Island from 
the trade winds. 

The department of Granada is by far the most densely peopled in the state, 
and here several important towns and communes are scattered over the fertile 
plains. The most flourishing place is Masaija, which has a population of some 
15,000 mestizoes. It stands north-west of Granada on the plateau commanded on 
the west by the volcano of like name, not far from the lovely Nindiri, a true 
"garden of the Hesperides." The surrounding farmers and peasantry are a 
prosperous and industrious people, engaged in various crafts, such as weaving, 
pottery, leather dressing, saddlery, and producing a thousand objects of local 

Jinotepe, south-west of Masaya, stands at an elevation of 2,520 feet amid 
productive coffee plantations, while Nandaime, in a rich valley sloping towards 
the bay of Charco Muerto, is surrounded by thriving cacao farms ; in the neigh- 
bourhood is the famous Val Menier domain, the produce of which commands too 
high a price to serve for the preparation of ordinary chocolate. About five miles 
west of Nandaime are the ruins of Nandaime Viejo, supposed to have been des- 
troyed by an earthquake. " "■ 

Eiras, standing at the narrowest part of the isthmus between Lake Nicaragua 
and the Pacific, might claim to be regarded as the " metropolis " of the republic. 
Here resided the Niquiran chief, Nicarao, who, according to most of the chroni- 
clers, gave his name to the state ; here began the work of conversion and of con- 
quest, and here Bobadilla baptized over 29,000 persons in the space of nine days. 
Yet no Spanish settlement has been made in this favoured district, and the Indian 
village of Nicarao-calli was not raised to the rank of a town till the year 1720, 
greatly to the disgust of its rival, Granada. It long bore the name of " Nicaragua," 
but since the beginning of the present centiuy that of Rivas has prevailed. The 
town is continued for miles through a highly-productive district by the scattered 
villages of Obrage, Potosi, Bueiiayrc, while eastwards it descends to its port of San 
Jorge on Lake Nicaragua. 

On the Pacific coast the hamlets of Brito and San Juan del Stir {Concordia) are 
names associated with the engineering projects for piercing the isthmus by a 
navigable canal, and sooner or later the opening of this interoceanic highway will 
confer on Brito the celebrity now enjoyed by Suez and Panama ; yet its harbour, 
scarcely 70 acres in extent, is so exposed that it will have to be sheltered by costly 
breakwaters. On the other hand the magnificent haven of Salinas Bay, common 
to Nicaragua and Costa Hica, has no settlements on its shores, and is entirely 
neglected except for the exploitation of the Bolanos salt-pans. The haven is an 
almost circular basin, over 20 square miles in extent, sheltered from the surf and 
ranging in depth from 40 to 80 feet. A cutting across an intervening sandy 
isthmus might connect it with the equally safe bay of Santa Elena. 

Compared with the western seaboard, the Atlantic coastlands might almost be 
called uninhabited, all the civilised populations being concentrated on the uplands 
near the waterparting between the lacustrine and Atlantic basins. Throughout 


its whole extent the great valley of the Rio Segovia has only one town, Ocotal, capital 
of the department of Segovia. The first Scgocia, founded in 1524, soon became a 
flourishing place as a centre of the gold washings in all the surrounding valleys, 
but it was destroyed in 1854 by Morgan, most famous of all the TTest Indian buc- 
caneers. Rebuilt in a more protected position, it was again attacked by the ilos- 
quitos corsairs, and had to be shifted a third and a fourth time to sites farther and 
farther removed from the coast. 

The present " Segovia," better known by the name of Ocotal, stands at an 
altitude of over 2,000 feet on the left bank of the "Wanks (Coco), in a mineral dis- 
trict abounding in gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. Further down, nothing is 
met except a few Indian camping-grounds, one of which, Koom, near the estuary 
at Cape Gracias-a-Dios, was formerly the residence of a Sambo " king." 

The upper valley is somewhat more settled than that of the TYanks. Mata- 
galpa, capital of the department of like name, has the advantage of easy access to 
Lake Nicaragua, although its waters drain to the Atlantic. It is a thriAing place, 
surrounded by rapidly-spreading coffee plantations. 

Jinotega, on the opposite side of an intervening ridge, is also a prosperous town, 
whose cultivated lands are steadily encroaching on the neighbouring pine forests. 
The uplands of this region are also rich in the precious metals, and near the Indian 
Tillage of Sehaco are seen numerous galleries, whence the natives drew large 
quantities of gold. The auriferous sands of Frincipolca have also attracted many 
immigrants from the Zamba territory. 

Acoyapa, or San Sebaiiian, capital of the department of Chontales, stands on 
the site of a formerly populous city, but is itself a mere village near the east shore 
of Lake Nicaragua, where it possesses the port of San TJhaUo. In the same dis- 
trict, but farther north at the foot of the Sierra Amerrique, stands the town of 
Juigalpa — in Aztec, the "Great City" — which appears to have been a large centre 
of population, to judge, at least, from the numerous ruins, the disinterred idols, and 
still undeciphered inscriptions covering the surrounding rocks. 

Liberiad, on the opposite or Atlantic side of the sierra, is the capital of a pro- 
ductive mining district, but the excessive moisture renders its cKmate highly 
insalubrious. Farther east the basin of the Blewfields is almost uninhabited as 
far as the great lagoon of Uke name. Here stands the village of Bleirfields, a 
former nest of pirates, and residence of the ilosqtutos chief, who takes the redun- 
dant Anglo-Spanish title of "Rey-King." This potentate, formerly protected by 
Great Britain, but now a pensioner of Nicaragua, administers all the villages of 
the ilosquitos Coast for a space of about 150 miles between the Hueso and Rama 
Rivers north and south. 

Blewfields is also the centre of the Protestant missions and English schools 
along the seaboard. It is surrounded by extensive banana and other plantations, 
and since 1883 it has developed a considerable trade in cocoanuts, pineapples, 
oranges, and other fruits with New Orleans. 

The shores of the Pearl Lagoon as well as the neighbouring Corn Islands have 
also become busy agricultural centres. Oysters abound along the coast lagoons. 



although the vast kitchen-middens of the surrounding forests contain none of these 
bivalves. Potsherds and little human figures have been found in the refuse. 

San Carlos, on the left bank of the San Juan where it escapes from the lake, is 
a mere group of cabins, commanded by a ruined fort. But according to Belly, 
this is the site of the future Constantinople of the American Bosj^horus. CaHtillo, 
a little farther down, is the most important station between the lake and San Juan 
del Norte, often called Greijtoim since the time of its occupation by the English. 
This town, famous in the history of the wars between the Spaniards and bucca- 

Fig. 121.— San Juan del Noete before the Consteuction of the Piee. 

Scale 1 : 85,000. 

'o 16 


1<>(0 32 

32 Feet and 

. 3,300 Yards. 

neers, and long the scene of English and American rivalries, is the only seaport of 
Nicaragua on the Atlantic side. Its little white wooden houses, with their smiling 
garden plots, trailing plants, and shady palm-groves, are surrounded by swampy 
tracts, backwaters and channels, alternately flooded and filled with mud, which should 
make Greytown a hotbed of fever. Yet according to the testimony, not merely of 
engineering speculators, but of disinterested travellers, it is really one of the least 
insalubrious places along the whole seaboard. This is mainly due to the porous 
nature of the volcanic matter washed down by the river, so that the surface waters 


rapidly disappear, carrying witli them all the impiirities of the soil, while the 
exhalations are continually dissipated by the prevailing north-east trade winds. 

The absence of a port at Greytown has obliged the promoters of the Xicara- 
guan interoceanic canal to construct an artificial harbour on the north-west side 
of the delta. A jetty projecting l,-440 yards seawards has enabled the stream to 
sweep away the sands and gradually scour the channel to a depth of seven or eight 
feet. A few structures on the beach mark the site of the future '' City of America," 
solemnly founded on January 1, 1S90. Xorth of this place, the best roadstead is 
at Monkey Point between the Blewfields and Rama rivers, and it was here that 
Bedford Pirn proposed to establish the Atlantic terminus of his transcontinental 
railway, crossing the waterparting at a height of 760 feet. The promoters of the 
canal are now connecting the Kama vallev with the harbour of San Juan. Thev 
will thus have the advantage of two seaports with an intervening territory suitable 
for European colonisation. 


Although sparsely peopled relatively to the vast spaces capable of settlement, 
Nicaragua, like the sister states, is steadily increasing in population, which 
advanced from nearly 13"2,000 in 1778 to 160,000 in 1813. Since then, despite 
ci^il strife and invasions, progress has been even more rapid, the returns for 1846 
showing 257,000, while the total population was estimated in 1890 at 375,000, or 
nearly six to the square mile. The birth-rate is at present on an average double 
that of the mortality. 

The chief products of Nicaragua are agricultural, and these might be indefinitely 
increased by bringing the vacant lands under tillage. Coffee, which forms the 
staple of the export trade, comes almost exclusively from the province of Granada. 
Next in importance is caoutchouc, collected, not from cultivated plants, but from 
forest growths felled by the Caribs of the Atlantic coastlands. Bananas are yearly 
becoming more abundant, thanks to the increasing demand in the United States. 
The Xicaraguan planters also export cacao and sugar, but have almost ceased to 
cultivate indigo, driven from the markets by the new chemical dyes. 

A great resource of the republic are horned cattle, exported both to Costa Pica 
and Honduras, ilany million head might be raised on the grassy plateaux of 
Chontales, where the herds number at present scarcely more than 1,200,000. 

Nicaragua also possesses considerable mineral wealth, though mining operations 
are stiU mostly carried on in a primitive way. The best-worked mines are those of 
Chontales, which have long been owned by English proprietors. The gold washings 
of the streams flowing to the Atlantic are almost entirely in the hands of the 
Indians and Sambos of the coastlands. Mining, such as it is, is almost the only 
local industry, and all manufactured wares, except some coarse textiles and furni- 
ture, are imported from Europe or the States. The chief products of the native 
craftsmen are the earthenware of Somotillo, the hammocks of Subtiaba and Masaya, 
and the calabashes of Rivas embelKshed with designs in relief. 

Foreign trade is scarcely developed, amounting to scarcely more than £2 per 




head of the popuhitioii. The total exchanges amounted in 1890 to little over 
£800,000, most of the trafBc heing with the United States and Great Britain. 

The Nicaragua Canal. 

But trade and the industries will be powerfully stimulated by the completion of 
the interoceanic canal which has been so long projected. There can be no doubt 
that the isthmus of Nicaragua is by far the most suitable region for a canal with 
locks, the line to be followed being already indicated by the depression of Lake 
Nicaragua and its emissary. 

It has even been proposed to cut a navigable way free of locks, a scheme by 

Fig. 125. — Peojected Inteeoceahic Canals aceoss NiCAiLiGUA. 
Scale 1 : 5,200,000. 

West oF OreenwrcK 


5 Fathoms 
ami upwards. 

Projected Canal. 


Canalised Eiver. Railways opened and projected. 

— ^— ^— ^— ^^^^_ 124 Miles. 

which the great basin would be more than half emptied and many hundred thousand 
acres of arable land reclaimed in the very heart of the country. But a cutting 
over 220 miles long, under such a climate and without slave labour, would appear 
to be beyond the power of modern industrial resources. 

Projects of a more practical nature were spoken of so earlj' as the time of the 
conquest, and even under the Spanish rule the buccaneer, Edwards David, con- 
ceived the idea of a cutting between the lake and the Pacific. In 1780, the 
engineer, Martin de la Bastide, proposed such a canal, and the next j-ear the 
Madrid Government undertook a first survey of the ground with a view to its 



Immediately after the declaration of independence, the new republic decreed 
the accomplishment of this work, but failed to supply the means for its execution. 
After the discussion of various plans and counter- j)lans, a first scheme for a canal 
terminating at San Juan del Sur (Concordia), on the Pacific, was propounded by 
John Bailey in 1843. 

Since that time various other schemes have followed, but without obtaining the 
necessary capital. The failure, however, of the Panama undertaking has revived 
the hopes of speculatoi s, who propose to carry the interoceanic route through the 
Lake of Nicaragua. The works were, in fact, actually commenced at the end of 
the year 1889, though not, as the financial world expected, at the expense of the 
United States Government. The estimated cost is fixed at £15,000,000, and a 
period of six years assigned for the completion of the work, which will have a total 

126. — Lower San Juan Canal. 

Scale 1 : iViri 000. 



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Oto 5 

6 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

1-' Miles. 

length of 170 miles, of which 140 of open navigation through the lake, and not 
more than 30 through ship canals. We are assured that vessels of the heaviest 
draught will take only 30 hours to pass from ocean to ocean, and that the cutting 
will admit 32 such vessels per day, or 11,680, of about 12,000,000 tons, a year. 

The San Juan discharges a volume sufiiclent for hundreds of canals, but its 
course is too shifting, its current too irregular and too charged with alluvia to 
allow of its being canalised and adapted for the navigation of large vessels. 
Hence it will be necessary to keep the canal quite distinct from the river through- 
out its lower course, where it receives the great tributaries from Costa Rica. This 
cutting, joining the river in its tranquil upper course, will be supplied with three 
locks, each 550 feet long, by means of which the vessels will be brought to the 
level of the lake, which stands over 110 feet above the Atlantic at low water. It 




will have a depth of 29 or 30 feet, and a miuimum breadth of 80 feet on its bed, 
with sidings at the narrowest parts. 

Above the upper lock, which will have to be separated by an embankment 
from the mouth of the San Carlos, the ships will pass into the lake and traverse 
it obliquely to a second canal, whence they will descend to the Pacific through an 
artificial lake and the Rio Grande. But Lake Nicaragua itself will have to be 
deepened in its south-eastern section, where its bed has been raised by the alluvial 

Fig. 127. — Political Divisions of Nicaeaofa. 
Scale 1 : 5,000,000. 






: 94 Miles. 


matter washed down by the Eio Frio from the Costa Rica highlands. The Pacific 
Canal will be partly transformed by huge dykes to lakes at different levels 
terminating at the port of Brito. 

Such is the magnificent project first conceived by Thome de Gamoud in 1858, 
then adopted with modifications by other engineers, especially Menocal, and now 
in process of realisation. But will the estimated sum suffice for the construction 


of sucli prodigious ■works, gigantic locks, large harbours in stormy seas, channels 
maintained at a constant depth, despite the invasions of sedimentary matter brought 
down by impetuous moimtain streams ? On the other hand, the annual increase of 
the world's trade, and the necessity of opening a navigable highway by which 
thousands of vessels will be spared a voyage of over 9,000 miles round Cape 
Horn, render the execution of this gigantic work more and more probable. 

But its successful completion is full of dangers for the republic itself. "WTien 
the canal has become the great highway between Xew York and San Francisco, 
and the all-powerful company finds itself mistress of the route with a vast army 
of employes at its disposal, how can the feeble and sparsely-peopled state hope to 
maintain its independence against the " manifest destinies " of the Xorth American 
Anglo-Saxon nation ? 



In her political institutions, Nicaragua difFers little from the other Central 
American states. By imiversal sufFrage are erected two chambers, a senate of 
18 members for six years, and a lower house of 21 representatives for four 
years. The president is also nominated for the same period, and is assisted by a 
council of four ministers, or secretaries, for foreign affairs, finance, public works, 
and the interior. 

The standing army comprises a few hundred men, with 1,200 custom-house 
officers, and a reserve of over 15,000 liable to serve in case of civil or foreign war. 
The revenue, Hke that of the neighbouring states, is largely derived from tobacco, 
spirits, and gxmpowder monopolies, supplemented by the customs and some minor 
imposts. Most of the expenditure is absorbed by public works, instruction, postal 
and telegraph services. Nicaragua, unlike Honduras, has hitherto escaped the 
financial speculators, and the public debt amounted in 1890 to about £600,000, with 
a mortgage on the 93 mUes of railway, altogether little more than one year's income. 

In the Appendix are given the eight administrative divisions with their areas 
and populations. 

TI.— Costa PacA. 

Next to Salvador, Costa Eica is the smallest of the Central American states in 
extent, while its population is absolutely the smallest. It may be described as 
little more than a narrow strip of territory forming a terrace or plateau between 
the two oceans at a mean elevation of 3,500 feet, and intersected by a volcanic 
range double that height. But it is occupied by a somewhat homogeneous people, 
who present a certain originality amongst Hispano-Amcrican communities, and 
whose progress has been less interrupted than that of the sister states by foreign 
wars and civil strife. 

In some respects, Costa Rica is the model republic of Central America, as well 
as one of the most prosperous, not so much on account of its mineral wealth, as 
might be supposed fi-om its name, as of its agricultural resources. This term 



" Rich Coast," given formerly to the whole of the south-western shores of the 
Caribbean Sea, that is, to the Gulf of Columbus taken in its widest sense, was 
later restricted mainly to the district of Yeragua in Colombia, where gold had been 
discovered. But the present Costa Rica, at first known as Nueva Cartage, was 
found so little productive by its first white settlers, that, according to some writers, 
the name of " Rich Coast " was retained by a sort of antiphrasis. 

Like the other Central American republics, Costa Rica has scarcely ceased to 

Fig 12S.— Gulf of ColitiIbus. 
Scale 1 : 5,000,000. 

We=c oF Cr 




50 to 1.000 

I, Olio to 1,500 

1.500 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

, 124 Miles. 

be troubled with frontier questions, which, especially with Nicaragua, have at 
times led to sanguinary conflicts. The Nicoya and Guanacaste districts, at present 
the most important region of the state on the Pacific side, formed at one time a 
part of the province of Nicaragua, the natural limit between the two countries 
being the Gulf of Nicoya. But during the first years of independence, political 
discussions waxed so furious in Nicaragua, that those more peacefully-disposed 



districts petitioned the Central American Government to be annexed to Costa Rica 
until order could be restored. But tbe arrangement has been maintained, and is 
now officially confirmed by treaty between the conterminous states. 

But in the San Juan basin on the Atlantic side, the conflict became more 
serious ; here the ri\cr is a natural highway of trade between the two republics, 
so that any frontier excluding Costa Rica from this outlet for her produce would 
have deeply affected her interests. The treatj' of 1858, ratified in 1888 by the 
arbitration of the United States president, definitely settled this question, assign- 
ing to Costa Rica the right bank from the delta to within three miles of the 

Tig. 129. — One of the Theee Chatees of Poas. 

fortifications of Castillo ; then the line is deflected eight miles south and east of 
this place, beyond which it follows all the windings of the river and of Lake 
Nicaragua at a distance of two miles to the mouth of the Rio de la Flor, which 
enters the Pacific a little north of Salinas Bay. 

On the side of Colombia the southern frontier is clearly indicated by the long 
promontory of Punta Burica j^rojecting into the Pacific, while on the north or 
Atlantic coast, Costa Rica claims Chiriqui Bay and its islands, including the 
Escudo de Veragua off the coast. On the other hand, Colombia claims not only 
the whole of Chiriqui Bay, but even that of the Almirante as far as the Boca del 
Drago. The question has been submitted to the arbitration of Spain ; but in such 
matters diplomatic records are of less consequence than the wish of the jjeople. 


Physical Features. 

Taken as a whole Costa Rica may be regarded as an elevated tableland domi- 
nating tbe flooded Nicaraguan depression. Immediately to the south of this vast 
basin, the hills rise from tier to tier to the crest of the igneous cordillera which 
is disposed north-west and south-east. Within some 20 miles to the south of 
the narrow zone between Salinas Bay and Lake Nicaragua, the Orosi volcano, 
which still emits a few jets of vapour from its verdure-clad crater, rises to a 
height of 8,700 feet. 

Beyond it follows the almost isolated four-crested Riucon de la Yieja, and 
still in the same south-easterly direction the Miravalles peak (4,720 feet), 
crowned with an extinct forest-clad crater. Miravalles and its neighbour, 
Tenorio, are continued south-eastwards by the Cerros de los Guatusos, which for 
about GO miles are destitute of a single igneous cone. But towards the centre 
of the isthmus the Poas volcano rises to a height of 8,700 feet, and terminates 
in three craters, one flooded with a lake which drains through the Rio Angel to 
the Sarapiqui, and another filled with hot water from which vajjours are still 
occasionally emitted to a great height. In 1834 it was the scene of a violent 
eruption ; but Barba, its eastern neighbour, has long been quiescent, its terminal 
crater (9,000 feet) being also flooded, like so many others in this region. 

Farther on stands Irazu, giant of the Costa Rican volcanoes, which rises to 
the north of Cartago, and from whose summit a wide prospect is commanded of 
both oceans, and of the whole of Costa Rica from the Orosi peak to Mount Rovalo. 
Yet it slopes so gently that the traveller may reach its culminating point, a little 
over 11,200 feet, mounted on a mule. The lower flanks are covered with maize, 
tobacco, and other plantations, diversified with pasturage and terminating with 
oak forests. The hamlet of Birris, highest inhabited sj)ot in the republic, stands 
at an altitude of 9,400 feet. 

Turialba (11,000 feet), last cone going eastwards, has greatly contributed by 
its explosions to modify the general relief of the land. Since the eruf)tion of 
18G6 it has never ceased to eject copious vapours, accompanied now and then with 
some ashes. . Its name is said to be a corrupt form of the Latin film's (iJba, 
" White Tower," though Thiol and Pittier have shown that the word is of Indian 

Tlie Costa Rican igneous chain does not run parallel with the Pacific, but 
trends in a slightly oblique direction to the general axis of this part of the penin- 
sula, even developing a gentle curve with its convex side facing southwards 
and its more lofty section disposed transversely towards the Atlantic. It appears 
from Pittier's observations that the older cones began their eruptions early in 
secondary times, when the range stood in the midst of the sea, running in the 
same way as the insular volcanoes of the Hawaii archipelago. The former 
existence of such an archipelago is shown hy the sedimentary matter now filling 
the intervals between the igneous crests. 

According to the same authority some of the Costa Rican cones have ejected 



no lavas during the historic period, although both Turialba and Irazu Have dis- 
charged vast quantities of ashes, which, under the influence of the trade winds, 
have been deposited on their south-west slopes. 

The plateaux stretching south of the volcanic system, and eroded on both 


sides by running waters, formerly contained lakes in their cavities. The Alajuela, 
San Jose and Cartago depressions had also their lacustrine basins, which were 
gradually emptied by the erosion of the encircling walls. 

Earthquakes are very frequent, but are seldom violent, and the vibrations 



are rarely felt at any great distance from the base of the volcanoes. But at 
the end of the year 1888 several severe shocks, coinciding with the discharges of 
mud and water from Peas and Irazu, damaged the buildings of the neighbouring 
towns and overthrew some villages. A comparative study of the local seismic 
phenomena and of the rainfall during seventeen consecutive years has led Pittier 
to the conclusion that the return of igneous activity and of underground dis- 
turbances is a direct consequence of the tropical rains penetrating to the caver- 
nous recesses under the volcanoes. 

South of the igneous system the Costa Rican uplands are interrupted by the 
valleys of the Rio Grande de Tarcoles flowing to the Pacific, and of the Eeven- 

Fig. 131. — Plateau &yD Volcanoes of Costa Rica. 

ScIp 1 : 1.200,000. 


; \ 

K^** 18 if ^^^ ' J5'* ^ \i)^- 

r „ « 

• ) 

-^"■^-j^y ^K \, 

A? .._:>•' 

84 iu 

u^-" * ' g" ,.sa r„jgc:JimPi„t.'f ■-,.,:. afe 

West oF breenw en 6^ 

, 18 Miles. 

tazon descending to the Caribbean Sea. The sources of these streams are inter- 
mingled about the Ochomogo Pass (1,100 feet), which, at a former geological 
epoch, was flooded by one of the marine channels connecting the two oceans. 
South of this depression stretches an almost unknown region of wooded uplands 
some 8,000 square miles in extent, but apparently without any igneous cones. 
According to the natives. Mount Herradura (Turubale.s), at the southern entrance 
to the Gulf of Nicoya, has occasionally emitted some light vapours ; rumbling 
sounds are even said to be heard at regular intervals in the interior of the moun- 
tain, but these statements are doubted by Pittier, who denies that Herradura is a 
volcano at all. It is connected by a lateral ridge with the Dota mountains, a 
section of the main range traversing the isthmus midway between the two 



oceans. Above the ridge rise at intervals a number of lofty summits, such as 
the Cerro Chiripo, in the Cabecar district, Mount Ujum (9,700 feet), Nemur, 
Kamuk, or Pico Blanco (9,600), and lastly, Eovalo (7,000), close to the Colombian 

A striking resemblance in their general outline is presented by the two penin- 
sular masses of Nicoya and the Golfo Dulce on the Pacific seaboard. Both consist 

Fig. 132 —Gulf of Xicota. 
Scale 1 : 'W.CiXl. 


ViestoF Ljreen^vicH 




5 to 25 


25 to 50 

SCO Fathoms 
and upwards. 

12 Maes. 

of a mountain range disposed parallel with the mainland, with which they are 
connected by narrow strips of lowlands. The Punta Burica, at the Colombian 
frontier, belongs to the same line of promontories, which is continued south of the 
province of Panama by the island of Coiba, the large peninsula of Azuero and 
the Pearl Islands. 

These chains and detached insular or peninsular masses describe collectively a 
regular curve of about 550 miles, which is perfectly concentric with the curve 


presented by the mainland itself between Lake Nicaragua and the Gulf of Panama. 
The highest crest of this outer Costa Eican coast-range appears to culminate 
towards its southern extremity in a peak not more than '2,000 feet high. 


The strips of coastlands on both sides of the central uplands are too narrow 
for the development of any large fluvial basins. Even the most copious streams, 
the San Carlos and Sarapiqui, become merged in the San Juan before reaching the 
Caribbean Sea. The Colorado, which, on the contrary, now receives nearly the 
whole discharge of the San Juan, flows entirely in Costa Rican territory, where its 
waters are intermingled by lateral channels with those of the Sarapiqui. From 
the north-east slopes of the uplands, exposed to the moist trade winds, flows the 
Parismina, or Reventazon, which has a much larger volume than might be supposed 
from the length of its course. On the same side follow several other rios, such as 
the Sicsola, and the Tilorio, or Changuinola, which Peralta identifies with the old 
Rio de la EstreUa, famous in the local legends for its auriferous sands. The same 
name of Estrella has also been given to another less copious stream, which flows 
farther north near Cahuita Point, and where the alluvia are still washed for 

On the drier Pacific slopes the watercourses are less copious in proportion to 
their length. Nevertheless three of them bear the name of Rio Grande : the Rio 
Grande de Terraba, which reaches the coast at the head of the Golfo Dulce ; the 
Rio Grande de Pirris, which flows south of the mountains terminating in the 
western headland of Herradura, and the Rio Grande de Tarcoles, which rises at 
the Ochomogo Pass, and which, after its junction with the Tiribi, the more copious 
of the two, enters the sea opposite the southern extremity of the Nicoya peninsula. 
Farther north the Tempisque flows to the head of the Gulf of Nicoya after travers- 
ing the low-lying isthmus which was formerly a marine channel between the 
Nicoya peninsula and the mainland. 

All these streams tend by their alluvia to raise the bed of the gulf ; but a more 
potent cause is the south-east marine current which sweeps into the basin all the 
organic refuse collected on the neighbouring coast. 

The Gulf of Nicoya, so named from a chief whom the Spaniards converted 
with 6,000 of his subjects, rivals the Bay of Naples, the Bosphorus, or the 
Strait of Simonosaki in the rhj^thmical contour of its shores and encircling hills. 
Its waters are studded with islands of all sizes, whose deep green forest vegetation 
contrasts with the azure hue of the distant mountains. San Lucas, one of these 
islands, resembling Capri in outline, is famous throughout Central America for 
the legendary reports of the vast treasures here deposited by shipwrecked corsairs. 
But nothing has ever been brought to light desjDite the numerous expeditions 
equipped to discover these treasures. 

The Golfo Dulce, that is, "Freshwater Gulf," is much deeper than Nicoya, 
and entirely destitute of islands. 



CiJMATE, Flora, Fatxa. 

Like Mexico and Guatemala, Costa Eica offers a vertical succession of the three 
"hot," " temperate," and " cold" zones. But here the local climates and the 
distribution of the vegetable species are endlessly modified by the varying condi- 
tions of altitude, aspect, and general environment. In general the climate is 
essentially oceanic, and well regulated by the winds prevailing on both seaboards. 
At San Jose, the mean annual temperature exceeds 68" Fahr., rising gradually 
to 78° towards the low-lying coastlands, and falling considerably towards the 

Fig. 133.— Guu OF DcLCE. 
Scale 1 : 950,000. 

63"40' Vi sst op Greenwich 

83" 10' 



25 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

12 Miles. 

crests of the mountains. At an altitude of 9,000 feet Pittier observed films of 
ice on the margin of the streams, and on the summit of Irazu he found the surface 
covered with hoar-frost. 

At the same elevation the temperature is lower on the Atlantic than on the 
Pacific slope, but it is more oppressive, the atmosphere being more charged with 
moisture from the prevailing trade winds. On the west side the seasons follow 
very regularly, the rains falling almost exclusively from May to Xovember, whereas 


on the east side wet weather may be said to last throughout the year. The annual 
rainfall rises to at least 130 inches in the Reventazon and Colorado basins. 

Nevertheless the Costa Eican climate is one of the most salubrious in Central 
America, both for natives and foreign settlers. Consumption is very rare, though 
the uplands have at times been ravaged by cholera, smallpox, and other epidemics. 
Fevers also prevail in the low-lying coast districts, while on the plateau strangers 
are subject to rheumatism from the excessive moisture. 

In general the flora resembles that of the other Central American regions, 
though botanists have been struck by the contrasts often presented between the 
Xicaraguan depressions and the Costa Rica uplands. Thus of the 100 ferns 
collected by Levy in Nicaragua, only three or four are found in the 36 Costa Rican 
varieties in Polakowsky's collection. The cactuses, also, which in many parts of 
the Mexican plateau cover vast spaces, are scarcely represented at all on the San 
Jose uplands. In the forests occur numerous Colombian forms, especiall)- several 
false cinchonas, which might easily be replaced by the valuable medicinal species. 
Tree-ferns grow to an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet, and the banana to about 

Notwithstanding the reckless destruction of timber in many districts, more 
than half of the Atlantic slopes are still covered with primeval forests, containing 
an amazing variety of forms. In a space of 100 square yards, more types are here 
met than in 100 square miles in north Canada. The streams flow beneath avenues 
of overhanging foliage bound together from bank to bank by wreaths of flowers 
and festoons of trailing plants. A characteristic form in the clumps of trees dotted 
over many of the savannas is a species of mimosa, from which the province of 
Guanacnde takes its name. The widespreading branches of this tree are a favourite 
resort of the monkey tribe. According to Pittier the Costa Rican flora comprises 
altogether at least 2,200 species. 

The fauna, also, is exceptionally rich compared with that of other tropical regions. 
In general Brazilian and other southern types prevail over those of the northern 
continent. But Costa Rica also possesses several indigenous species, such as a 
howling monkey distinct from that of Guiana, a tapir {elasmognatJuis), somewhat 
different from the Colombian species, besides several kinds of bats and vampires 
dangerous to cattle, whose blood they suck. One migrating species appears sud- 
denly on the plains of Pirris, south of Mount Herradura, and falls on the domestic 
animals, poultry, cats, dogs, as well as horses and oxen. Although often regarded 
as fables, the reports of vampires sucking the blood of human beings, lulling their 
victims with their long wings, are by no means questioned by travellers and 
naturalists who have visited Central America. "Whole villages have had to be 
abandoned to escape their attacks, and the engineer. Brooks, one of the surveyors 
of the Panama Canal, died from the bites of a vampire. 

But the Costa Rican fauna reveals its marvellous wealth especially in the 
feathered tribe. In 1885, the catalogue of the "U'ashington National Museum 
already enumerated 692 species, distributed in 394 genera, and two years later, six 
new species were discovered, altogether twice the number possessed by the whole 


of Eui'ope. The parrot and gallinaceous families are both represented by an 
extraordinary number of different forms, as well asb}- the multitude of individuals 
comprised in many of the groups. 

In the reptile order, as manj' as 132 species have already been recorded, and 
great discoveries still remain to be made on the marshy seaboard and in the 
dense primeval woodlands. The surrounding marine waters also abound in animal 
life, and the manatee, which has disappeared from most of the West Indian coast- 
lands, still frequents the Costa Rican streams. Like Tehuantepec Bay, the Gulf of 
Nicoya has its purple-yielding mm-ex, and like the Gulf of California, its pearl and 
mother-of-pearl oysters. 


In Costa Rica the aborigines have been almost entirely supplanted by a civi- 
lised population of Spanish culture. The first European settlement, which, however, 
was not permanent, was founded in 1-j24 by Hernandez de Cordova on the Gulf 
of Nicoya. Badajoz, founded in 1540, on the opposite coast at the mouth of the 
Sicsola, in the Talamanca territory, also disappeared, and in 1544 took place the 
first conflict between the Indians of the plateau and the Spaniards in the neigh- 
bourhood of the present Cartago. 

In 1563 began the systematic conquest of the country by Vasquez de Coronado, 
who secured a firm footing on the plateau, where nearly all the population of 
Spanish speech is at present concentrated. Vasquez penetrated to within a short 
distance of the Golfo Dulce, reducing the warlike Coto Indians, and afterwards 
exploring the Talamanca territory on the eastern slope, the district about Almi- 
rante Bay, the Guaymi country and the auriferous region of the Eio de la 

At that time the aborigines must have numbered at least 60,000, the Talamancas 
alone being estimated at 25,000, and the Indians of Coto at from 12,000 to 15,000. 
In 1675, over 100 years after the conquest, there were stiU scarcely more than 
500 Spanish settlers in the country, nearly all grouped round the two towns of 
Cartago and Esparza on the 2:)lateau. The Indians employed on their plantations 
were gradually reduced to a few hundreds, and the colony itself made so little 
progress that even so late as 1718, there was not a single place of business on the 
plateau, and all the traffic was in the hands of packmen. 

During the seventeenth centurj' the seaboard was frequently attacked by the 
corsairs, but the country was too poor to attract them to the plateau. Despite its 
strategic importance Costa Eica, towards the end of the colonial regime, when it 
formed a province of the Guatemalan viceroyalty, had only a population of 47,000, 
mainly Mestizoes. The people are usually siDoken of as full-blood Spaniards, 
mostly from Galicia ; but they are really Ladinos, assimilated to the white race 
in speech, usages, and national sentiment. The negro element is very slight, 
there having been onlj' 200 blacks in the province at the time of the official 
abolition of slavery in 1824. 

The hravos, or " wild " Indians, variouslj- estimated at from 3,500 to 6,000, 


were quite recently still living entirely aloof from the civilised populations. In 
the forests of the northern slopes draining to Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan, 
and especially in the Eio Frio basin, dwell the Guatusos, who at present visit the 
market of San Jos^, and bring offerings to the Catholic priests, " brothers of the 
sun." They were formerly said to have fair hair and blue eyes, which Gabb 
attributed to contact with the English buccaneers. Others pretended that the 

Tig. 134. — Gtiatuso Indian. 

1 m w , A^ 

fugitives from the town of Esparza, sacked by the corsairs, hud merged in a 
single nation with the Indians. 

But all the Guatusos seen at San Carlos of Nicaragua, or at the markets of the 
Costa Rican plateau, have black hair, a dark complexion, and prominent cheek- 
bones, like the Nicaraguan Chontals, to whom the}' are probably related. They 
are excellent husbandmen, cultivating their banana, cacao and other plantations with 
great care. Nor are the Guatusos ferocious savages, as formerlj' asserted ; on the 
contrary, most of them have been exterminated by the Nicaraguan and Costa 
Ricau Latlinos engaged in collectiug rubber in the northern forests. According 



to Tliiel hundreds are still kept in a state of servitude in Nicaragua, where the 
price of a Guatuso was receuth' fifty dollars. 

The natives of the southern districts are generally grouped under the collective 
name of Talamancas, although each tribe has its special designation. Such are 

Fi?. ISS ToiryG Talajuncas Tn-bians. 

r.—r -.-?,'> ^^- 
1 V. v:, :/t1 I 

','//' y/'r—r"/^ •■/;, 

■.•}lf, »'■•' 

./'/ ';;'7:'^;,';!.'ti 

the Chirripos, the Cabecars, Viceitas, Bribri and Tiribies, who still decorate them- 
selves with plumes, strings of teeth or pearl necklaces, and dwell in pakiiqiiis with 
thatched roof reaching to the ground. 

On the Pacific coast live other tribes, the Borucas or Bnmcas, the Terrebas and 
others, who have given their names to the neighbouring villages. The Chirripos 
and Cabecars near the Cartago district have already been baptised. The other 



Talaraancas of the seaboard between Puerto Liraon and Almirante Bay appear to 
have also been formerly converted, for many of their ceremonies are of Spanish 
origin. But they still worship the sun and stars, the rocks and winds, the running 
waters and the sea. 

The Blancos, a people of Cabecar or Bribri origin, expose the bodies of their 
dead on palm-stands one or two yards above the ground, and bury thera after 
three years, when they are perfectly dry. Some food and precious objects are 
at the same time placed in the grave. 

In these graves have been found some remarkable little gold figures, which 
attest the ancient civilisation of the natives, and their lamentable degradation 
under their white rulers. Many of these artistic objects have unfortimately been 
melted down and coined at the Costa Rican mint. The jadeites and other green 
stones known by the Mexican name of chalchiltnifes come chiefly from Guanacaste 
and the Nicoya peninsula. Objects of pre-Columbian culture, formerly supposed 
to be rare in the northern provinces, are now found in thousands, especially about 
the environs of Cartage, where stood the ancient city of Purapura. 


Since the middle of the present century the population of the formerly almost 
uninhabited Guanacaste region has increased fourfold. Its vast savannas, where 
millions of cattle might be raised ; its forests, abounding in valuable timber and 
cabinet woods ; its gulf and harbours ; lastly, its convenient position between the 
Nicaraguan peninsula and the Costa Rican plateau — give promise of a great future 
for this hitherto neglected province. Its capital, Liberia, formerly Guanacaste, 
lies at the south foot of the Orosi volcanoes towards the middle of the fertile 
depression at the neck of the Nicoya peninsula. 

In the interior of the peninsula are situated the populous towns of Santa Cruz 
and Nicoija, the latter the larger of the two and formerly residence of the 
friendly chief who welcomed the Spanish conquerors, and was baptised with all 
his people. On the shores of the gulf are obtained both pearl and edible oysters, 
said to be the best on the whole west coast of America. 

Puntarenas [Punta Arenas, or "Sandy Point") stands on a tongue of sand at 
the mouth of the little River Barranca, which has deposited vast quantities of 
eruptive matter in the Gulf of Nicoya. The inlet is too shallow for large vessels, 
which have to ride at anchor in the roadstead. Yet Puntarenas has since 1814 
been the outlet for all the foreign trade of Costa Rica on the Pacific side. 

Before that year the Pacific seaport of the province stood some six miles 
farther soiith, near the thermal springs of La Caldera, between the Barranca and 
Jesus-Maria estuaries. Before the opening of the railway, which hasits terminus 
at Puntarenas, it was proposed to establish the port south of the Rio Grande, in the 
picturesque bay of Tarcoles, at the foot of Mount Herradura. But the project was 
never realised owing t^ the dangers of the bar and unhealthy climate of Tarcoles. 
In the neighbourhood are some extremely thick beds of anthracite. 

From Puntarenas the railway ascends the scarp of the plateau to Esparza 


<S;i1 -)V, ■ i .'^ ?:,''i.'^^' ,' J , J' '1' ' K .lie,''; ,,\t ' 








(725 feet), so named in 1578 bj- its Navarrese founder from his native village 
near Pampeluna, but no-w oiEcially changed to Esparto. Another station higher 
up (2,400 feet) has similarly taken the name of Afenas {Athens), and three miles 
farther on stands La Garifa, on the edge of the plateau, whence a view is com- 
manded of the plains watered by the Rio Grande. Here have been opened the 
most productive gold and silver mines of the republic, which are said to have 
yielded an annual output of £40,000 since the year 1821. The gold is coined at 
the San Jose mint. 

Alajuela, the " Jewel " (3,000 feet), dates from the end of the last century, but 
has already outstripped some of its older rivals, thanks to the fertility of its 
volcanic soil. It is the capital of a province which ranks next to that of San 
Jose for population. Here are also the thriving towns of Grecia and San Ramon. 

Heredia, east of Alajuela, lies at the foot of the Barba volcano, near the 
Desengaho Pass (6,000 feet), leading by a difficult route down to the San Juan 
valley. It is the Cubujuqui of the Indians, one of the oldest places in the state. 

San Jose, the present capital, was a mere hamlet known by the name of La 
Villita at the middle of the last century. But it enjoyed the advantage of a 
more central position than Cartago, being admirably situated in the middle 
of the plateau, 3,750 feet above sea-level. On the cessation of Spanish rule it was 
chosen as the seat of government, and here have been founded the chief learned 
and literary institutions of the countiy — university, normal school, museum, 
meteorological observatory. Electricity was introduced in 1887, and Sun Jose is 
now connected by rail with the Atlantic seaboard. 

Cartago, formerly the capital, was founded in 1564 by Vasquez de Coronado, 
and is the oldest of still- existing settlements in the country. It was several times 
attacked by the buccaneers, partly ruined by the eruption of Irazu in 1723, and 
levelled to the ground by the earthquake of 1841. One of the stations on the 
railway connecting Cartago with the port of Limon on the Atlantic takes the 
name of Angostura from the " narrows " of the Rio Reventazon. This place is 
known in Europe In connection with the disastrous failure of a German agricul- 
tural colonj' founded in the district. 

Limon, last of the chain of settlements which follow across the Costa Rican 
isthmus, is of recent foundation. Despite the advantages of its harbour, the best 
on the Atlantic side of the republic, no seaport could be established here until 
access was given to the plateau by practicable routes. Thanks to the railway, 
Limon has suddenly developed a foreign trade equal to that of Puntarenas. It not 
only exports the coffee raised on the plateau, but also forwards to the United States 
vast quantities of bananas from the new plantations In the neighbouring district. 

The construction of the railway has necessitated the addition of several other 
important works, such as viaducts and embankments across the swamps and 
channels on the coast. Such works were needed, especially near Moiii, where a 
contraband trade was formerly carried on In English sroods. 

South of Limon, the only civilised Costa Rican settlement on the Atlantic slope 
is San Bernardo, in the territory of the Talamancas, near the Puerto Viejo. But, 




like the station of Chirripo, it failed to prosper owing to its isolation. The 
so-called "city" of Santiago de Talamanca, founded on the banks of tte Sicsola, 
was burnt in 1610 by the revolted Indians. 

The constant reports of rich gold-fields in the vaUey of the Estrella (Chan- 
guinola) rest on a mistake made by Alcedo in his famous JDiccionario Geograjico- 
Hinforico de !as Iiidias Occidenfales. Alcedo had given to these mines of the 
Estrella the name of Tisingal (Tinsigal, Tisiugal), which happens to be an abbre- 
viated form of Tegucigalpa, as shown 
by the corsair Ravenau de Lussan's 
excursion to the Eio Segovia in Nica- 

This "gold coast," where no tra- 
dition survives of a pretended town of 
Estrella, attracted scarcely any settlers. 
It was, in fact, rather avoided, owing 
to its reefs and inhospitable shores. 

Fig. 136. — PUEETO LiMON. 
Scale 1 : 50,000. 



Sandg exposed 
at ebb. 


16 to 32 

32 Feet and 

1,100 Yards. 

Economic Condition of Costa Eic.\. 

Although not so rapid as that of 

other Spanish-American communities, 

the material progress of Costa Rica has 

at least been steady and regular. The 

population advanced from 80,000 in 

1844 to 120,500 in 1864, and to over 

182,000 in 1883, and was estimated at 

220,000 in 1890. The number of immigrants is still very small, and of the 4,672 

returned in 1883, nearly 2,000 were from the conterminous states of Nicaragua 

and Colombia. 

In the trade of the world Costa Rica derives its importance almost exelusivelj' 
from its coffee, which, in prosperous years, has been exported to the extent of 
15,000 tons, chiefly to Great Britain. 

Costa Rica also exports sugar, rubber, cacao, hides, and timber ; but in recent 
years all these wares are exceeded in value by the bananas forwarded to the 
United States, which in 1889 amounted to 40,000 tons, worth over £80,000. 
The so-called quiqukque, that is, the taro of Polynesia (edible colocasia), is also 
cultivated, in some districts even by Indians. 

The planters on the uplands, directing their attention almost exclusively to 
coffee-growing, do not produce sufficient supplies for the local demand, and are 
consequently obliged to import farinaceous products from Chile. Even the live- 
stock is insufficient for the wants of the people, despite the vast extent of their 
grazing-grounds. Of sheep and goats there were scarcely more than 2,000, and of 
horsef and horned cattle, 353,000 in 1888, when all the live-stock was valued at 
not more than £80,000. 



But Costa Rica enjoys the advantage over Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico 
that about one-half of the agricultural population are everywhere landowners, 
except in the province of Guanacaste. The territory which, even under the Spanish 
rule, was almost exclusively cultivated by free labour, is, for the most part, divided 
into small holdings, which give to the peasantry a direct interest in its improvement. 
In 1886 there were enumerated altogether 57,639 such holdings {fincas), with a 
total value of £7,760,000, but mortgaged to the extent of £1,600,000. Not more 
than one-twentieth part of the whole land has yet been brought under cultivation. 

Since the middle of the century trade increased fourfold, from about £400,000 
to from £1,400,000 to £1,600,000, or in the proportion of from £6 to £8 per 

Fig. 137. — Mlll foe HusKrua Coffee. 

head of the population. Great Britain, the United States, France, and Germany, 
in the order hei'e given, are the chief customers of Costa Rica. The great high- 
way of the traffic is the railway h\ which the capital has been completely connected 
with the seaport of Limonon the Atlantic side since the year 1890. The railway 
company, besides government advances, has received a grant of many hundred 
thousand acres of land on the condition of selling or renting it within a period of 
twenty years. A portion of this vast domain has already been ceded to settlers, 
either for tillage or stock-breeding. 

Other railways are also projected, to connect Costa Rica with Nicaragua and 
its future canal, and plans and estimates have been prepared for regulating the 
discharge of the Rivers Frio, Sau Carlos, Sarapiqui, and Sucio, with a view to 



making tliem accessible to steamers. An embankment, forming part of the 
Nicaragua Canal scheme, -would have the effect of raising the level of the Rio San 
Carlos about 50 feet, thus rendering it na\'igable by vessels of heavy draught to 
the foot of the mountain. 

On the other hand, the interoceanic route between the ports of Chiriqui and 
the Golfo Dulce, for which a concession was granted so far back as 1849, has not 
even been begun, although the company received a guarantee of 244 square 
leagues "with streams, rivers, mountains, and mines." 

Fig. 138.— HioHWATS OF CoMinmiCATiON IN Costa Rica. 
Scale 1 : 4,500,000. 

Navigable Rivers. 

Apart from a few minor details, the political institutions of the republic are 
modelled on those of the other Hispano- American states. The legislative power is 
exercised by a congress, whose members are elected for four years, one-half 
retiring every two years. A president, also nominated for four years, and not re- 
eligible, is charged with the executive functions. He chooses his own secretaries 
of state, and appoints the provincial governors, the military commanders, and the 
political chiefs of the cantons. The municipalities are elected by popular suffrage, 
which is not universal, but restricted to all who are able to live " respectably." 

The laws are administered by justices of the peace, cantonal alcaldes, provincial 
tribunes and a court of appeal. Criminal cases are tried before juries, and capital 
punishment is abolished as well as all degrading penalties. Freedom of worship. 



decreed in 1870, already existed dc facto, and tithes liad already beea abolished 
soon after the declaration of independence. Convents and religious orders are 
interdicted throughout the republic. 

Public instruction had formerly been much neglected, and even in 1883 not 
more than 12 per cent, of the population could read and WTite. But primary 
instruction for both sexes is now obligatory and gratuitous, aud in 1886 as many 
as 20,000 scholars were already attending the 260 public schools. Under the 
Spanish rule, and dovm to 1830, Costa Eica had not a single printing-press ; there 
are now over ten, and the number of letters forwarded through the post increased 
from 600 in 1811 to nearly 3,000,000 in 1890. 

Costa Rica was free of liabilities till 1871-2, when loans of £3,100,000 

Fig. 139. — AjDHEfUTEiTivE Dmsioss OF CosiA Rica. 
Scale 1 : 5,(»i.O>"0. 







San Jose. 




Oomarca of Limon. 

Cartflgo . Comarca of Pnntarenas. 
134 Miles. 

were raised on the security of the customs and railway debentui-es. In 1888 the 
public debt was converted into a total amount of £2,000,000 at 5 per cent., and 
taken over by the Costa Rica Railway Company. The yearly budget is generally 
balanced with an income and expenditure of from £600,000 to £800,000. Most 
of the revenue is derived from the customs and spirits and tobacco monopolies. 
The army comprises a standing corps of 1,000 men. 

Costa Rica is divided into five administrative provinces and two comarcas, with 
areas and populations, tabulated in the Appendix. 



[LTHOUGH politicall}' forming an integral part of Colombia, tte 
pro^ance of Panama belongs geographically to Central America, 
of whicb it is even a typical section in its serpentine isthmian 
contours. The political frontier towards Costa Rica has not yet 
been definitely settled ; but in estimating the extent of the pro- 
vince, the nearly straight line may be provisionally accepted which is traced on 
the Colombian maps from the extremity of Burica Point in the Pacific to the 
western headland of the Boca del Drago (" Dragon's Mouth "), at the entrance of 
Almirante Bay, in the Caribbean Sea. The greater part of " ducal " Yeragua 
granted to Luiz Colon is thus included in Colombia, while " roj-al " Veragua, 
stretching thence northwards, is assigned to Costa Rica. 

The administrative limit s of the province towards South America pass far to 
the north of the natural boundary, which is here so clearly indicated, between the 
isthmian region and the southern continent. Within these somewhat conventional 
frontiers the province of Panama comprises an area of about 32,000 square miles, 
with a population estimated at 300,000. 

Physical Fe.\tures. 

The main Costa Rican range is continued through Panama by mountains of 
great elevation. Picacho, near the frontier, over 7,000 feet, is greatly exceeded 
by its eastern neighbour, the extinct Chiriqui volcano, a perfect cone, nearly 
11,400 feet high. At its eastern base the range is crossed by a pass which falls 
to 3,600 feet, and still farther east by another about 4,000 feet, mentioned by the 
traveller Morel. The crest rising between these two depressions to a height of 
nearly 7,000 feet .takes the name of Cerro de Horqueta, that Is, "Mountain of the 
Pass." Wheelwright and other explorers speak of even still less elevated saddle- 
backs, falling even to less than 200 feet ; but their statements are not supported 
by accurate surveys. 

Farther on the cordillera maintains a normal altitude of over 8,000 feet, and 
here runs much nearer to the northern or Atlantic than to the Pacific coast, 
where space is left for the vast plain of David. To this corresponds on the 
opposite side the extensive inlet of the Chiriqui " lagoon," which gives its name 



to this section of the cordillcra. Farther on it takes the name of the Vcragiia 
range, which begins on the west side with the superb Mount Santiago (6,300 
feet), followed by several others over 4,000 feet high. 

In this region, the whole of the isthmus, from ocean to ocean, is filled with 
mountains or hills, with spurs projecting northwards to the Atlantic coast, and 
penetrating southwards through the massive peninsula of Las Palmas, west of 
Montijo Bay, far into the Pacific. But the quadrangular peninsula of Azuero, 
which limits the Gulf of Panama on the south-west, is physically distinct from 
the Veragua range, from which it is separated by depressions and grassy rising 
grounds about 509 feet high, culminating south-westwards in a headland exceeding 
3,000 feet. The Azuero peninsula, in fact, forms part of an almost completely 
submerged chain, which is disposed parallel with the winding isthmian Cordilleras, 
and which embraces the Nicoya peninsula, with those of the Golfo Dulce and 
Burica, besides Coiba Island and the Pearl Archipelago in Panama Bay. 

North-west of the Veragua range the orographic system becomes very 
irregular in direction and altitude, being broken into several fragments, whose 
original trend it is now difficult to determine. Capira, the culminating mass 
(5,000 feet), lies beyond the line of the main axis, its escarpments plunging 
southwards into Panama Bay, and even projecting seawards in the little Ccrro 
Chame. The main axis itself appears to be continued in the Ahoga-Yeguas 
hills, which are crossed by a pass only 380 feet high, and which nowhere exceed 
700 feet. Farther on is opened the still lower Culebra Pass (290 feet), which is 
distant about 34 miles in a straight line from both oceans. 

The geological constitution of the isthmian heights shows that their various 
sections belong to no single homogeneous system. The Veragua range consists 
mainly of granites and sj-enites, gneiss and schists, whereas the Panama hills are 
chiefly weathered dolerites and trachites, " which may be cut with a spade like 
cheese." But these igneous heights nowhere present the aspect of erupted cones. 
Hence the eruptions must have taken place at a time when the waters of the two 
oceans communicated through channels. The limestone banks occurring in cer- 
tain parts of the isthmus are also filled wilh fossils, dating, probablj', from eurly 
tertiary times, and mostly resembling the forms still living in the neighbouring 
waters. The channel, in fact, is scarcely completely closed, though the attempts 
of engineers to reopen it have hitherto failed. The depression, however, is traversed 
by an interoceanic road and railway. 

Beyond the Culobrasill the mountains again gradually rise eastwards, the Maria 
Enriquez (1,340 feet) being followed by those of Pacora, which are nearly 1,700 
feet high. Then in the neighbourhood of San Bias Bay is developed a coast- 
range disposed west and east along the Atlantic, and in one of its crests just east 
of Puerto Belo attaining an elevation of over 3,000 feet. The system is continued by 
a steep ridge from 500 to 2,700 feet, which here forms the waterpartiug between 
the two oceans at the very narrowest part of the isthmus. The distance between 
San Bias Bay and the head of the Pacific tidal wave in the Rio Bayano scarcely 
exceeds 17 miles. But the crest where the Bavauo has its source is over 1,000 



feet hiwh, so that for au interoceanic canal it \vould have to be pierced by a 
tunnel at least seven miles long and high enough to admit the taUest vessels. 

The San Bias (Chepo) cordillera, consisting of gneiss and metamorphic schists, 
is continued under various names as the Atlantic coast-range as far as the entrance 
to Uraba Bay, where the isthmus takes the name of Darien. The hilly mass of 
Gandi (3,000 feet) and Turganti farther on mark the point vs^here the system bends 
round to the south along the west side of the Eio Atrato. At the Tihule Pass it 
falls as low as 420 feet, and this site has also been proposed for an interoceanic 
canal, which would replace an ancient marine strait along the valleys of the Eio 
Atrato in the east and Rio Tuj^ra in the west. 

Farther on the cordillera is connected by lateral ridges with the Baudo range, 
which runs close to the Pacific coast in the direction from north to south for a 


From a Spanisli Map of the fii-it half of the Eighteenth Centnry. 

distance of about 124 miles. The sierra culminates in the Baudo peak (6,000 feet), 
but it is interrupted by broad depressions, one of which, the Cupica Pass, is only 
1,000 feet high. The last rising grounds of the plateau die out north of the San 
Juan estuary. 

Rivers, B.\ys, Islands. 

Apart from the Atrato, only a few lateral affluents of which are comprised in 
the province of Panama, the isthmus has no large rivers, or, at least, none that 
send down a large volume except after heavj^ rains. Many have a considerable 
course owing to the disposition of their valleys, which rim parallel with, and not 
transversely to, the seaboard. But their basins are too narrow to collect any great 
quantity of sui-face waters. 

Even the Chagres, a term which, according to Pinart, means " Great River " 
in the Muoi language, is in ordinary times an insignificant tributary of the Carib- 
bean Sea. It rises about the centre of the isthmus of Panama, and flows first in 

'^^^ ^:c'^-'f^^pmsxsmM r. 

JiMIJii iniNi:iii I ii'T' ■„' l.l.ll:wil|:i:,i'ill 111 1 1' lilt ijiiiijij li' nil, i injii:;!,:. 



the direction of the south-west parallel with the shores of both oceans. At Cruces, 
where it has already collected all its headstreams, it is accessible to small river 
craft. At iTatachin, a little farther down, where at low water it is only 46 feet 
above the level of the Atlantic, it is joined by the Obispo, which descends from 
the Culebra heights. Judging from the direction of its valley, the Obispo is the 
main branch, for below the confluence the united waters flow transversely to 
the coast-ranges to thfs Caribbean Sea, where they are obstructed bj- a bar with a 

Fig. 141. — GuiF OF Sax Miguel. 
SM'e 1 : 500.000. 

Beach exposed 
at low water- 




16 Feet and 

■ 6 Allies 

mean depth of little over 10 feet. The river itself varies from about 14 to 40 
feet with the seasons, but unusually heavy rains will sometimes cause a sudden 
rise of 40 feet. Eapid changes of level of 20 feet are frequent, and the railway 
bridges have been flooded to depths of 14 or even 20 feet. The discharge varies 
enormously, from 350 to as much as 70,000 cubic feet per second ; but the normal 
difference is not more than 700 cubic feet in the dry season and 2,600 during the 
floods. Compared with that of European rivers, the mean discharge is very high. 


the catchment b;isiii not being more than about 1,000 square miles in extent and 
75 miles long. 

The Chagres is exceeded both in length and the extent of its basin by the Rio 
Bayano, which, however, has a smaller volume because it belongs to the drier 
Pacific slope. It enters the sea through a broad estuarj% which is closed by 
a bar witb scarcely two feet at low water. In the GuK of Panama itself no 
anchorage is afforded to large vessels for a long distance from the shore. The 
five-fathom line lies nearly six miles from the mouth of the Bayano, and this is 
itself one of the greatest objections to an interoceanic canal across the San Bias 

Of all the isthmian rivers the Tuj'ra, flowing also to the Pacific, has the largest 
basin and longest course. It flows for nearly 100 miles parallel with the cordillera 
of Darien, and after escaping from the densely-wooded uplands, it is joined by 
the Chucunaque from the north-west, the vmited stream being 1,000 feet wide 
and over 30 feet deep, with a mean discharge of 1,100 cubic feet per second. 
Farther on the river merges gradually in its estuary, and its estuary in the mag- 
nificent Darien Harbour, which communicates with San Miguel Bay through the 
two channels of Boca Grande and Boca Chica. The encircling heights are clothed 
with a glorious forest vegetation, where the tall white stems, 100 feet high, 
support a continuous canopy of dark verdure. 

On the Atlantic side the largest inlet is that formed by the two bays or lagoon.s 
of the Almirante and Chiriqui, which communicate with the open sea through the 
three deep passages of the Boca del Drago, Boca del Toro, and Boca del Tigre, all 
accessible to the largest vessels. The i^lmiraute Bay is so named from " Admiral " 
Columbus, who visited these waters in 1503 ; from him also the wooded island 
between the Drago and Toro passages has been named Colon, while another islet 
in the bay takes his Christian name, Cristobal (Christojjher). 

Almirante is a vast aggregate of creeks and havens, like the ncighbouriiig 
Chiriqui, which has an area of no less than 320 square miles. The chain of islets 
at the entrance is so disposed as to continue the continental coast-line as if they 
represented a former shore eroded by the waves. 

East of Chiriqui Bay the coast is continued several miles seawards by a marine 
bank scarcely 25 fathoms deep and strewn with shoals, reefs, and islets. One of 
these is the famous Escudo de Veragua, often referred to in diplomatic documents 
as a debatable land between Costa Rica and Colombia. 

San Bias Bay, which lies at the narrowest part of the isthmus, presents, like 
Chiriqui, somewhat tbe appearance of an indentation made by raarine erosion in 
an old rectilinear strip of coastlands. The San Bias peninsula, enclosing the bay 
on the north side, is a fragment of the primitive shore, and is continued eastwards 
by hundreds of reefs and islets forming the Muletas or Mulatas archipelago. 
None of these cays have any hills or cliffs, being merely sandy stretches resting 
on a coralline base and rising a few feet or perhaps yards above the surface. The 
intervening channels are deep enough to admit large vessels, to which they afford 
safe anchorage in smooth water. All are covered v.ith forests or cocoanut groves, 

Ill I lllll'lt 

ill ll|iiiiil|iiii''» 




llLj.luilHhl.MI'llP '1^ I ,, I Jul mllil 1 lU,l,lllll„li 















aud several, with springs of goud water, have been occupied by a few Tiulian 

Beyond the iluletas the cays are scattered in disorder along the coast, forming 
an outer barrier reef as far as the Puerto Escoces. Farther on the sea becomes 
quite free of these obstructions in the direction of the Gulf of Darien (Uraba), 
where, however, begins a fresh formation, that of the alluvial matter deposited by 
the mouths of the Atrato. Here the sands and shore-line are continually shifting 
with the current, so that the marine charts should be revised every year. 

In the Gulf of Darien the same process of silting, but on a much larger scale, 
is going on as in that of Smyrna in Asia Minor. The potent current of the 
Atrato is continually impelling the alluvial banks in the direction of the South 

Kg. Hi. — Gtjlf of San Blas. 
S<?>le 1 : 010,000. 

^' . ; j^<t^^^^iS^^^^^^S'~ ■ 

. : 9" 


'.o II) 

3> Fret an! 
U Miles. 

American side, so that the southern part of the bay cannot fail, sooner or later, to 
be cut off from the open sea. 

The contrast between the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards is primarily due to 
the tides, which vary far more on one side than the otber. At the mouth of the 
Chagres river and in Colon Bay there is a mean rise of 15 inches, and of one foot 
in Chiriqui Bay, but this difference between ebb and flow is not constant, being 
greatly modified according to the force and direction of the winds. At times the 
surface remains at the same level for days together ; but as a rule the two 
diurnal tides neutralise each other so far as to produce only a single rise aud a 
single fall in the twenty-four hours. 

On the Pacific coast, on the contrary, ebb and flow follow the normal course. 



In Panama Bny the lowest rise in May and June is about eight feet, whereas it 
amounts, in November and December, to 23 feet, the yearly average being about 
13 feet. Owing to these discrepancies the level of the Pacific is sometimes 
higher, sometimes lower than that of the Atlantic, the greatest possible difference 
between the two being 10 or 11 feet. Hence in an open canal across the isthmus 
of Panama, there would be an alternating current, shifting with the respective 
levels and giving to the canal a constantly varying inflow and outflow. Nor 
would the movement balance itself, or produce equilibrium, for the average of the 
oscillations gives to the Pacific a level a few inches higher than that of the 

Fig. 143.— Caledonia Bat. 
Scale 1 : 400.000. 

9 \^^ .',/ Y'^'Wl^ 

We . or L een ch 



6 Miles. 

Atlantic in Colon and Caledonia Ba3^s. Moreover, the rise and fall takes place at 
■different hours in the two oceans, the station in the port of Colon being nine hours 
behind that of the Pacific. 

Another result of these tidal discrepancies is the different aspects presented by 
the opposite seaboards. While the Atlantic coastlands are narrow, those of the 
Pacific develop in some places broad stretches of beach, and are also less rich in 
coral reefs than the Caribbean Sea, high tides being fatal to most species of 

Coiba, Cebaco, and the smaller islands on the Pacific side between Burica 
Point and the Azuero peninsula, all belong geographically to the mainland. 



Those in the vast semicircular Gulf of Panama also rest, like the isthmus itself, 
on a marine bed less than 2-5 fathoms deep. Here the larger islands form with 
over 100 islets the so-called Pearl Archipelago, although their pearl fisheries have 

long been exhausted. 


The cHmate of the province of Panama presents some slight transitions 
between those of the north-western isthmuses and the neighbouring South 
American continent. The mean annual temperature of 78^ to 80° Fahr. is some- 
what higher on the Atlantic side, which is due to the warmer marine currents of 

Fig. 144. — Gttlf op Panasu. 
Scale 1 : 3,500.000. 

West o? G--;envv;ch 80 




50 to see 


500 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

60 Miles. 

the Caribbean Sea. But throughout the year the extreme range of temperature 
never exceeds 30°, the limits being 65° and 95° Fahr. 

Under the influence of the neighbouring continent the prevailing trade winds 
set regularly rather from the north than the north-east. They daily increase in 
force with the heat of the sun, then gradually fall, and often leave the nights 
perfectly calm. Between May and November these northern currents are replaced 
by the ccndamles, or south-eastern monsoons. 

The Atlantic seaboard is exposed to the sudden squalls which are so dangerous 
to shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. The isthmian region is also occasionally 
visited by cyclones, such as that of October, 1865, which swept over Colon, the 


isthmus of Panama and Mosquito Coast ; in 1885 eighteen sailing-vessels were 
wrecked by a norte in the port of Colon. 

As in so many other respects, the opposite seaboards present a contrast in the 
distribution of the rainfall, the northern slopes exposed to the moist trade wiods 
rccei^■ing at least twice as much as the Pacific coast facing the southern monsoon ; 
the former is estimated at over 120, the latter at about 60 inches during the j'ear. 
At the Gamboa observatory, standing 100 feet above sea-level, the average in the 
rainv season is 38, in the so-called "dry" season 35 inches. 

Being almost constantly saturated with vapour and charged with exhalations 
from the marshy tracts, the hot atmosphere of the isthmus is necessarily danger- 
ous to Europeans. The first Spanish settlers in Panama gave it the name of 
Scjnilturade Vivos, or " Living Grave." Immigrants from Europe and the United 
States connected with the railway and canal works have specially to dread affec- 
tions of the skia, of the liver and kidneys, and yeUow fever, during the eight first 
months of their residence ; after that period of probation they enjoy as much 
immunity from this scourge as the natives, who suffer most from consumption. 
Four- fifths of the hands employed on the international works have been half- 
castes either from Colombia or Jamaica, and when all allowances are made, these 
works have cost far more lives than similar operations in temperate lands. The 
mortality during a period of two years and three months in the Panama works 
amounted to 98 per 1,000. 

Flora axd Fauna. 

In the province of Panama, and especially in the isthmus of Danen, the Central 
American flora reaches its highest development. Here the South Mexican and 
Colombian types are intermingled and associated with a local flora which, according 
to Scherzer, represents over one-fiith of the whole. This diversified vegetation 
covers the surface with such a tangle of stems, branches, foliage, creepers, parasites 
that the traveller finds his progress blocked in every direction. The headlands 
along the seaboard nowhere present the aspect of rocky bluffs, being so completely 
clothed with verdure that they often look like a single gigantic plant with its roots 
in the deep and its superb pyramidal crest towering to a height of 600 or 700 feet. 

In the interior the brooks and rivers flow beneath sombre avenues of m itted 
foliage, the water disappearing in one place under a mass of drifting snags, in ■ 
another carpeted with confervals and other aquatic plants. The cfiamwdorca 
pnciii/a, a species of palm, grows to an altitude of 7,000 feet in association with the 
oak and alder. Owing to the less copious rainfall the vegetation is somewhat less 
exuberant on the Pacific than on the Atlantic side. 

A remarkable contrast between both coasts is presented by the oceanic fauna, 
although in the early tertiary epoch the two basins were connected by marine 
channels. But although the numerous echinidaj, for instance, differ specifically, 
nearly all belong to the same genera on both seaboards. It is evident that the 
divergence is comparatively recent, and must have taken place since the channels 
were closed. 


Of the 1,500 and 1,340 species of molluscs belonging respectively to the 
Caribbean Sea and Panama waters, less than 50 are common to both groups. Even 
the land animals diifer in the same way. The chnjsothrix, a species of monkey 
peculiar to the Chiriqui district, will not even live on the opposite coast. 


Most of the inhabitants of Panama, like their Central American neighbours, 
are a mixed people, the various elements being the Spanish, Indian, and Negro. 
Since the abolition of slavery Jamaica has never ceased to send blacks and mulattos 
to the isthmus, wliere many have settled as petty dealers and farmers. In several 
villages on the Atlantic side they are in a majority, and to them is due the sjDread 
of the Anglo-Spanish jargon now current along the seaboard. 

Some of the aborigines have preserved their physical type, customs, and speech. 
Thus the Guaymi, that is " Men," keep somewhat aloof, mostly in the upper 
Miranda valley, in the western part of the province. These Indians, whose chief 
tribe bears tlic name of Yalientes, belong to the same family as the Costa Rican 
Talamancas, and were certainly at one time more civilised than at present. They 
are probably the direct descendants of those natives who before the conquest 
carved symbolic figures on the face of the rocks, and deposited gold ornaments in 
their guacas or graves. One of their chiefs pretends to descend from Montezuma, 
a name which they have evidently learned from the whites, and to which they 
now attach^a certain national sentiment. 

The religion of the Guaymi is a pure system of terrorism. Every sudden noise 
startles him, and is attributed to some wicked demon, who has to be conjured by 
the wizard and propitiated by offerings. When the sick seem to be past recovery 
they are taken to the forest and abandoned with a calabash of water and a few 
bananas. After death the bod)^ is exposed on a platform for a year, when the 
remains are cleansed and deposited in a bundle in the " family vault." 

According to Pinart the Guaymi still number about 4,000, although in 1883 
the Muoi tribe had been reduced to three persons. On tlie southern slope of the 
chain lived the Dorasques, a distinct tribe with a different language, but now all 
but extinct. The Seguas, called Mexicans or Chichimecs by the early Spanish 
writers, were, in fact, more or less barbarous Nahuas met by Vasquez de Coronado 
on an affluent of the Chiriqui lagoon ; but the locality can no longer be identified. 

East of the Chiriqui range, and thence to the San Bias isthmus, all the abori- 
gines have disapjDcared, either extirpated or absorbed in the surrounding Mestizo 
populations. But native tribes still survive in the eastern districts, on the shores 
and islands of San Bias Bay, and in the Bayano, Tuyra and Atrato basins. But 
these Indians have not preserved the tribal traditions, and they no longer 
remember the sway of the ancient Paparos or Darienes, whose name survives in 
the eastern part of the isthmus, and who were probably related to the Quevas or 
Cuevas mentioned by Obido y Valdes and other early writers. 

Apart from the southern Chocos, whose affinities are with the Colombian 
populations, the various Indian peojoles of Darien, despite differences of speech, 

VOL. xvii. Y 



belong to a single stock, that of the Cunas (Cuna-Cuna), called also Ti, or "River 
People," from their aquatic dwellings along the banks of the streams. In the 
same way the Chocos of the Atrato basin are called Do, a word of precisely the 

same meaning. 

The Cimas, who call themselves Tule, or " Men," are supposed to be of Carib 

Fig. 14J.— Isthmus of Chieiqtji. 
Scale 1 : 1,500,000. 

62 "40 

West or Greenwich 



10 to 100 100 Fathoms 

Fathoms. and upwards 

IS Miles. 

stock. Thi-y arc in general a small-sized, thickset people, with a great tendeuc}' 
to corpulence. Albinos are by no means rare, while the fair complexion and red 
hair occurring here and there would seem to suggest long contact with the bucca- 
neers. They formerly practised tattooing, but now smear the body with the blackish 


sap of tho jagua {gornpn niihriniiia), which keeps the skin cool. Their hmguagc 
is a sort of singsong, in which each sentence is followed by a long pause. The 
numerical system is vigesimal, as in Aztec, and may possibly be due to Xahua 


The " citj' " of Castillo de Austria, founded on the Rio Chiriqui-mula (Crica- 
maula), or Eio de Guaymi, during the first years of the conquest, soon disappeared 
without leaving a trace of its former existence. The district continued to -be 
inhabited exclusively by Indians till the beginning of the present century, when 
some negroes from the Vieja Providencia and San Andres islands settled on the 
Chiriqui coast and neighbouring islands and graduallj' spread round the whole 
islet. Boca del Turo, their largest station, had in 18S3 a thriving pojiulation of 
about 500, almost exclusivelj' coloured. It lies in Colon Island over against the 
Isla Bastimentos, the Provision Is/and of tho English, where passing vessels call for 
bananas, yams, and other supplies. 

On the mainland the chief trading-place is Gohrante, at the head of the navi- 
gation of the Chiriqui-mula, whence a difficult track leads through the Jliranda 
valley over the cordillera down to the plains of David. An easier route runs 
farther west from French Bay through a pass near the Cerro Horqueta. David, 
capital of the Chiriqui department, stands within 12 miles of the Pacific on a 
grassy plain flanked on the north by the superb cone of Chiriqui. Some twelve 
miles farther west the hamlet of Alaiije is all that remains of the ancient capital of 
the country, a famous market-place on the trade route between Guatemala and 

Farther on Bai/idiita, near the village of Btigaha, is noted for the discover}' of 
numerous guacus, old graves full of gold ornaments, which in 1860 gave the Chi- 
liqui district a temporary renown as a new Eldorado scarcely inferior to that of 
California. But it was soon found that of every twenty or twenty -five graves not 
more than one contained gold or copper objects, chieflj^ figures of animals, especi- 
ally frogs, evidently amulets worn by the natives. Treasures to the value of about 
£40,000 were unearthed by some 1,500 searchers, who, after exhausting the supply, 
quitted the district. 

Kaia, or Santiago de las Cabalkros, is one of the oldest settlements in America, 
dating from the year 1512, some time before the very name of Mexico was known 
in Europe. It lies on the Eio Chico near its mouth in Parlta Bay, at the western 
extremity of the Gulf of Panama. 

The famous city of Panama, which gives its name to this gulf, to the isthmus 
and the whole province, was not originally founded on its present site. In 
1518, when Pedrarias de Avila transferred the cajoital from the Atlantic to the 
Pacific side, he selected a spot at the mouth of the little Bio Algarrobo, which 
enters the bay or inner basin at the point where the gulf develops its extreme 
convex curve towards the north. For 150 years this first Panama, founded on 
the site of an Indian village of that name, enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of the 




isthmus. Here the Spauish flotillas landed the merchandise and all the gold of 
Peru, and over 2,000 mules were employed in transporting the precious metal from 
Panama to Puerto Belo, where they were shipped for Sjsain. But these treasures 
could not escape the attacks of the buccaneers. In 1670 Morgan, at the head of 
1,100 men, crossed the isthmus and captured Panama, which was sacked aiid burnt. 
Fearing renewed attacks, the Spaniards never rebuilt it, and nothing remains to 
mark its site excejjt the shapeless ruins of two churches overgrown with brush- 

The present city stands some six miles facther west, at the foot of Ancon Hill 
(560 feet), and near the mouth of a rivulet called "Rio Grande." Solid walls 10 
feet thick still enclose San Felipe, the city proper, and form tc *vards the sea the 

Fig. 14G. — Panama. 
Scale 1 : 57,000. 


West oF Greenwich 

79"3i '■' 


Sanrls exposed at 
iow water. 


7 to 16 

i,200 Yards 

magniucent promenade of Las Bovedas. Beyond the ramparts the suburbs are 
continued along the beach and neighbouring slopes. Conspicuous amongst its 
monuments is the cathedral, whose two towers serve as beacons and lighthouses. 

Although chosen as the seat of a Spanish American Congress in 1824, and 
raised to the rank of a capital when Colombia formed a confederacy of states, now 
reduced to the position of provinces, Panama is a place of slight importance as a 
centre of population and local trade. The so-called " Panama " hats, at one time 
so fashionable in Europe, are not made in the town whose name they bear. 

In fact, this place owes all its celebrity .to its vital position at the narrowest 
part of the isthmus, and its chequered historj- presents a remarkable alternation 
of rapid progress and decline according to the routes followed by international 
trade. Hence it flourished when it commanded the traffic of Peru and Chile ; 



and was almost abandoued when it lost that monopoly. It again became a busy 
place during the rush of miners to the Californian goldfields, until the stream of 
trade and travellers was deflected by the opening of the American railways 
from ocean to ocean. Its prosperity was again revived when nearly 20,000 hands 

were engaged on the interoceanic canal, and now it has entered on a third period 
of decline. It must always, however, retain some importance, thanks to the rail- 
way here crossing the isthmus, and to the lines of steamers converging in its gulf, 
from Polynesia, North and South America. 



Unfortunately, the roadstead offers bad anchorage during the prevalence of 
the north winds, when large vessels prefer the more sheltered waters under 
Taboga Island 11 miles farther south. According to the general plan, the 
interoceanic canal was to be continued between embankments or sea-walls as far 
as the little group of islets where begins the five-fathom line, 
is already connected bv a deep channel with the mainland. 

This anchorage 

Fig. 148.— Colon. 

Pm'c 1 : 46.(XiO. 


Reefs exposed at 
low water. 


16 to .S2 

1,100 Yards. 

During the Spanish regime the only line of communication between the two 
oceans was a simple mule-track crossing the isthmus northwards to Puerto Belo 
on the Atlantic side. This old seaport, whose fortifications are now overgrown 
with a forest vegetation, has sunk to the position of an obscure hamlet occupied by 
a few hundred negroes who do a little trade with Colon, Colombia and Jamaica. 
The harbour is commodious, deep and well sheltered, but the district is extremely 
unhealthy owing to the want of circulation caused by the surrounding heights. 


Here Drake died suddeul}' in 159-3, wlieu about to sack the town after ravaging 
the mainland. 

Puerto Belo was succeeded by Chagres, on the right side of the Chagres estuarv, 
as the Atlantic terminus of the isthmian route from Panama. The river from 
this point was navigable for boats to Matachin, within 1-i miles of the Pacific as 
the crow flies. But Chagres, like Puerto Belo, is a hotbed of ague, the marsh 
fevers raging on this coast being commonly known as " Chagres fevers." Hence 
the population rapidlj' disappeared as soon as another station was chosen at the 
little coralline island of Manzauillo, north-east of Limon Bay, between Chagres 
and Puerto Belo. 

Here was founded the new port, which was named Colon, in honour of Colum- 
bus, who discovered the bay in 1-502. It also took the name of Aspininill from one 
of the chief promoters of the isthmian railway, and both names are still in current 
use. Colon is a town of wood and iron, with colonnades and verandahs brought 
ready-made from the States, docks and depots relieved by a few clumps of cocoa- 
nut palms round about the railway-station, and adorned by a statue of Columbus 
facing seawards, executed by Carrier-Belleuse. 

Colon, having been recently burnt, has been rebuilt on a larger plan and on 
better-drained ground. Some of the building materials have been supi:)lied from 
the porj)hyry quariies at the neighbouring village of Boliio Soldado. It is almost 
exclusively a place of transit for goods and passengers, nearlj- all brought by 
regular lines of Atlantic steamers communicating by the isthmian railway with 
corresponding lines in the Pacific. Some bananas are also exported to the States 
from the plantations on the Rio Chagres. Although sheltered by a recently-con- 
structed embankment, the shipping is still insufficiently sheltered at the mouth 
of the canal, and sailing-vessels have occasionally to take refuge in the harbour 
of Puerto Belo. 

So early as 1835 the American, Biddle, was already exploring the isthmus of 
Panama ■«-ith a view to the construction of an iuteroceanic railway. But the work 
was not begun till the year 1850, when the fame of the Californian Eldorado was 
attracting thousands of goldseekers from all parts. The line, which was opened 
in 1855, was carried across swamjis and forests, rivers and mountain passes, under 
a dangerous climate, at the cost of many lives, while the outlay, nearh- £40,000 
per m^ile, was five times more than the average expenditure in the States. 

But this line, nearly 100 miles long, was from the first of great commercial 
importance in forwarding goods and passengers between the two oceans. Its 
historic importance is also incalculable. Thanks to this route the west coast of 
America was suddenly brought some thousands of miles nearer to Europe. Thus 
its far-reaching consequences extended to the trade of the world and the whole 
sj'stem of international communications. 

l^evertheless a railway, however useful, especially before the opening of the 
United States and Canadian transcontinental lines, could be regarded only as a 
sort of " stop-gap " pending the reopening of the marine communication between 
the two oceans, the existence of which, though closed since tertiary times, was still 



suspected long after the exploration of the Caribbean Sea. Columbus himself, 
even after coasting the seaboard from north to south, died in the belief that such 
a passage would still be found through the region visited by him. 

So deep-rooted was the conviction that the strait must exist that it was figured 
on all maps down to the year 1540. The illusion spread even to the extreme east, 

Fiu'. U9. — The "Hysteey of the Strait" at the Beginndjo of the Sixteenth Centtjet. 

J, tilus incv^nziufTL 

f. Sctff G~ucii 

and was embodied in a Chinese map of 1820, which represents the two American 
continents as separated by no less than three interoceanic channels. The 
"mystery of the strait," which Charles V. recommended Cortes to solve in 1534, 
shows that he also believed in this navigable highwaj'. 

But as it could not be found, men's thoughts turned to the idea of opening it by 
sheer force, and schemes of canalisation were proposed before the region itself had 



been even roughly explored. Philii) II., ho^vever, forbade the presentation of any 
new plans, since " the will of God had clearly manifested itself by the creation 
of a continuous isthmus." But^-hen Latin America was finally emancipated from 
Spanish leading-strings, the undertaking began again to attract attention. So 
early as 1825 Bolivar took steps to have the isthmus of Panama surveyed with a 

Fig. 1 jO. — Docks .•nt) Couese of the Panama Canal. 

Scale 1 : 541.000. 

\^Ta en a 

/9 55 

Dp Gr 

79 3a 

12 Miles. 

view to tbe construction of an interoccanic canal. Scientific exploration had 
thus alrcadv begun. 

Amongst the projects based upon local research, the most important in the 
history of Panama were those of Garella in 1843, and of Lull in 1875. But both 
of these engineers admitted the possibility onh* of a canal with locks to ascend the 
slopes on one side and descend on the other. But in 1879, a more detailed study 
of the ground enabled MM. "Wyse and A. Reclus to present a plan with estimates 
for a cutting at sea-level, and these propositions were accepted by a congress of 
engineers, men of science, and capitalists assembled in Paris. The prodigious 
success of the Suez Canal and the yearly growth of navigation betweeu Europe and 



the west coast of America, tended to overrule objections and dispose the public in 
favour of the magnificent undertaking. The movement between the two oceans 
was estimated at from 3 to 5 per cent, of the world's trade, or altogether nearly 
5,000,000 tons. 

According to the original plan the cutting was to be 44 miles long, following 

Fig. 151. — Sill of tile Lock Canal. 
Scale 1 : X30.000. 


•^^;^y^^ .;j..,>.^j>- 


-St *■ 

^>,Atr--''^, ■-' 


/ '^ , ' t ■ 

79 4o 

73 ST 

vVest or breenwicii 

; Miles. 

the valleys of the Chagres on the Atlantic and of tlie Rio Grande on the Pacific side. 
The crest of the range was to be crossed at Mount Culebra, either by a tunnel 1-30 
feet high or by a tremendous open cutting. Reservoirs were to be constructed by 
means of dams to control the flood waters of the Chagres and its affluents, the 
displacement of matter being estimated at first at 1,645 millions of cubic feet, and 
afterwards at 2,520 million!?, to allow for a tunnel nearly four miles long. But the 








outlay, including interest till the opening of the canal in 1 888, was fixed und(>r 
either alternative at £26,000,000. 

This scheme, entrusted to the person whose name was so happily associated with 
the Suez work, has ended in financial disaster. So far from being completed, the 
works along the greater part of the line are still at the initial stage of projects and 
counter-projects. The part actually finished is variously estimated at from one- 
third to one-fifth of the whole; officially it is put at one-third, the Colombian 
Government having surrendered to the company the 375,000 acres of land agreed 
to on completion of so much. Small steamers can ply on the canal for a distance 
of 10 miles, and rowing-boats nearly four miles farther. About 1,050 million 
cubic feet of matter have been removed, while what remains represents at least a 
total of 5,250 millions, for the original plan has had to be modified to lengthen the 
curves and give the banks a more gentle slope than had been provided for in 
the first estimates. 

The outlay already incurred amounts to £60,000,000, of which, however, not 
more than £18,000,000 have been exj^ended on the actual works. But experts 
now estimate at £120,000,000 the sum still needed, including £18,000,000 for the 
purchase of the works already finished, quays, piers, sections of the canal, various 
cuttings, embankments and buildings. The main cutting itself represents an 
exi:)enditure of probably £52,000,000. 

Ten years have passed from the date of the concession to that of the catastrophe, 
and it is calculated that the completion of the work would take at least another 
twenty years of continuous labour. The date fixed bj' the Colombian Government for 
the opening of the canal was January 31, 1893, while the company promised to have 
everything finished by the year 1887. 

Such an enterprise would, no doubt, be a mere trifle for a comity of nations 
working in harmony for the common good. But under the actual conditions, where 
the civilised nations of the earth incur a yearly expenditure for military purposes 
of twice the sum needed for this enterprise, international rivalries naturally prevent 
the interested Powers from making a collective outlay which might benefit one 
more than another. 

Hence the latest and relatively less ambitious projects contemplate a navigable 
way in successive stages, each stage being regulated by a system of locks. But 
a tremendous difficulty still remains, that of the excessive flood waters, which wash 
down vast quantities of alluvial matter equally dangerous to any canal, whether at 
sea-level or with locks. According to a plan proposed iby the first engineers and 
since diversely modified, it will be necessary to store the overflow by vast dams 
capable of retaining as much as ten or eleven billion cubic feet. These embank- 
ments will transform to a chain of lakes the whole middle course of the Chagres as 
far as a point above Cruces. 

To protect the canal from the floods, it has even been projjosed to deflect the 
course of the river itself, and send it through some tunnel not yet planned to the 
Gulf of Panama. Thus, even for a simple canal with locks, enormous works have 
still to be executed. And when all is done, the economic value of the undertaking 



will be seriously affected by the competition of the future Nicaraguan canal carried 
at a height of not more than 110 feet above sea-level. 

But despite of every thing, the work will sooner or later be resumed, unless the 
cutting a>f the navigable way is rendered useless by some fresh discovery. One would 
fain hope that so many lives, so much energy and devotion may not have been 
sacrificed in vain. The prodigious quantity of machinery accumulated at this vital 
point of the globe must be utilised ; the astounding cuttings which the traveller 
contemplates with amazement will one day give free passage to the mingled waters 
of two oceans ; the ever-growing power of himian industry and the yearlj' progress 
of international trade surging round the portals of this isthmian barrier, will all 

Fig. 152. -Peoxecied Aetificiai. Laxes on the PiNAitA Divide. 

Ccile 1 : 240,000. 


a ■ 

West oF C- 

'i^^Ji^^^'- .-i*_= 





. 3MUfs. 

combine to open a navigable highway between the neighbouring marine basins. 
But its completion must necessarily be delayed for years. 

East of Puerto Belo, on the Atlantic side, the Indians largely predominate in 
all the settlements. JVombre de Bios, founded by Nicuesa in 1510, has left no 
vestige of its existence, and its very site can no longer be determined. The 
spacious and deep basin of San Bias Bay, where 10,000 vessels might easily ride 
at anchor, is occupied only by a few scattered hamlets of the Cuna Indians. 

But schemes have also been proposed for piercing the isthmus at this its 
narrowest part. The country was surveyed first by MacDougal in 1864, and since 
then by Selfridge, Wyse, and A. Reclus, and from their reports it appears that 
here the cutting would be only 32 miles long, of which 6 would follow the deep 
bed of the Rio Bayano. But the cordillera at this point is over 1,000 feet high 
at the lowest passes, so that the canal would have to be cut through a tunnel 
variously estimated at from G to 9 miles m length. 



Caledonia Bay, about 120 miles south-east of San Bias Buy, and not far from 
Piitiicanti, largest village of the Cuna Indians, revives the memory of earlier 
attempts at colonisation. An inlet in the ba}- bears the name of Puerto Escoces, 
" Scotch Port," so named, like the bay itself, from a group of Scottish immigrants 
who settled in this district under the financier, Patterson, in 1698. For Patterson 
this was the " key of the world," and Puerto Escoces might well have become 
one of the world's portals had the British Government come to his aid against the 

Fig. 153. — PBOTEcrivD CunrxGS aceoss the Isthmuses of Paxama axd Darien. 

ScJe 1 : 3,S00,0CO. 

VVest oF UreenwicVi 


to 100 

100 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

Spaniards and Indians, and constructed a road across the isthmus at this point. 
But the climate and homesickness soon decimated the Scotch settlers, and the 
survivors were dispersed in 1700 by a Spanish squadron ; in 1827 the ruins of 
Patterson's fort were stiU visible. 

The neighbouring port, Carrcto, had in 1513 witnessed the departure of more 
illustrious pioneers, Xufiez de Balboa and his followers, who in that 3-ear started 
to discover the South Sea, which they happily reached in twenty-three days. At 



that time the Spauish station ou this coast was Smifa Maria, founded as a future 
"metropolis" on the Gulf of Darien (Uraba), just north of the Atrato delta. But 
in 1526 the settlement was removed to Panama, and Santa Maria, gradually 
invaded by the forest, received the epithet of Antii/ua. 

Darien was in those early days known by the name of " Castillo d'Or," and 
auriferous deposits had already been worked at Canci towards the sources of the Tuyra 
in the Choco territory'. TiU the end of the seventeenth century a certain quantity 
of gold continued to be extracted from this " Eldorado ; " but the buccaneers had 
found the way to the mines, and to get rid of these troublesome visitors the 
government could think of nothing better than closing the works. Its policy 
was based on the principle of ruining its subjects to divert foreign rivals. 

Fig. 1.54. — PfiOJECTED Cajtal between Ueaba and San 'Miguel Bays. 
Scale 1 : l.WO.MOO. 


West op ureer.vicli 


. 30 Miles. 

The Atlantic slope of Darien, with its abrupt decKvities facing the sea, scarcely 
affords much facility for canalisation. Nevertheless, numerous surveys have been 
made by prospectors, and some of the early travellers reported the existence of 
very low depressions where real mountains raised their wooded slopes high above 
sea-level. In 1854 the American, Lieutenant Strain, landing at Caledonia Bay, 
with a party of twenty-eight men, made his way across the isthmus down to the 
Pacific in sixty-three days ; but several of his followers had perished of hunger 
and hardships. 

MM. Wyse, A. Reclus and Soso also studied a projected scheme of canalisation 
for this region, having a total length of 78 miles, including a tunnel over 10 
miles long. The Atlantic terminus would have been at the port of Acanti, the 
first place north of the muddy mouths of the Atrato where vessels can anchor in 
clear water. At the other side of the tunnel the cutting was to descend throuo-h 
the valley of the down to the Tuyra estuary, which penetrates far inland, 



and communicates i^ith the ocean by the Darien Harbour, one of the largest and 
safest in the world. This commodious inlet is continued seawards bv the spacious 
Gulf of San Miguel. Along the banks of the streams and estuary are a number of 
viUages— I'rtn^ff, Pinogana, Chepigana—\n.t\ an aggregate population of about 
•2,000. In the neighbouring forests grows the p/it/fe/ap/ias palm, which yields the 
vegetable ivory of commerce. 

Another interoceanic cutting, proposed by MM. de Gogorza and Lacharme, 
who fancied they had here found a pass not more than 180 feet high, would also 
have utilised Darien Harbour; but it took a much more southerly course along the 

Kg. 155.— CupiCA Bay. 
Scale 1 ; iSii ■■<vi. 

Snnds exposed at 
Jow water. 



5 to 25 

25 to 50 

50 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

• 3 jrUes. 

upper Tuyra and lower Atrato valleys. Wyse, however, has shown that this 
depression has no existence, and that the Tihule Pass, lowest of the range, is 
nearly 540 feet high. The canal, 140 miles long, would have required 22 locks, 
a tunnel 2,200 yards in length and much dredging about the Atrato estuary. 

All the other schemes of canalisation in this region suffer from the same 
inconvenience of having to enter the Atlantic by the Atrato, which is certainly 
deep enough for the largest vessels, but which is separated from the sea by muddy 
bars. One of the plans, studied by Trautwine in 1852, and again by Porter, 
Kennish, Michler, Craven, and other engineers, follows the course of the Truando, 



a western affluent of the Atrato, crossing tlie Cordillera bv two tunnels and 
terminating at the little inlet of Paracuchichi. 

According to an analogous project suggested by Selfridge, Lull, and Collins, 
tte canal would ascend the Atrato, the Napipi, and its Doguado affluent, also 
crossing the cordillera by locks and a tunnel at an elevation of 650 feet ; thence 

Fig. 156. — The Raspadxjea Dhtde. 
Scale 1 : 7iO,OOC. 

^est of Greene uh 7/^ 

7b tO 

it would reach the Pacific at Chiri-chiri Bay, an inlet of Cupica Bay, where 
extensive sQtiug has already taken place. Another line studied by the same 
American engineers reduces the number of locks. Lastly, the so-called Raspadura 
Canal, lying farther south, and called also the "Priest's Canal," first mentioned by 
Humboldt as an interoceaiiic highway opened in 1788, is not a canal at all. 
A. Reclus even asserts that it has no existence. Anyhow, it is nothing more than 
a simple depression about three miles long, standing on the parting line between 


the little Raspadura affluent of the Atrato and the Rio Perico, which flows 
through the San Juan to the Pacific. During the rainy season the cutting is at 
times completely flooded, so that hoats are ahle to utilise it in crossing- from slope 
to slope. But such a casual transit cannot be spoken of as offering a navigable 
highway from ocean to ocean ; no serious study has yet been made for a cutting 
across the parting-Iiue at this point. From the mouths of the Atrato on the 
Atlantic to those of the San Juan on the Pacific the total distance is 220 miles. 


The province of Panama, which till the year 1885 ranked as one of the con- 
federate states of Colombia, is now nothing more than one of the nine departments 
of the centralised Tepublic. Its governor, formerly elected by universal suffrage, 
is at present directly nominated by the president of Colombia. In its political, 
administrative, and judiciary institutions Panama differs in no resfDect from the 
other Colombian departments. It comprises the six subdivisions of David or 
Chiriqui, Code or Pcnonome, Colon, Panama, Los Santos, and Yeragua. The 
three districts of Balboa, Darlen, and the Canal are specially administered. 
Panama, the capital, had an estimated population of 15,000 in 1890. 

vol,, xvn. 



fLTHOUGH far more open to the ocean than the Mediterranean 
between Europe and Africa, the inland sea separating the two 
American continents is none the less a well-defined marine basin, 
presenting a group of phenomena which constitute it a separate 
natural region on the surface of the globe. The parting-line 
between the inner waters of the New World and the Atlantic Ocean is even more 
sharply indicated than might appear at first sight to be the case. Thus the chain 
of islands which describes a vast semicircle round the east side of the Caribbean 
Sea, as well as those almost closing the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, rest on a 
common submarine bed, whose scarps sink abruptly towards the Atlantic to depths 
of over 2,000 fathoms. The Bahamas and Lesser Antilles represent plateaux 
rising here and there above the surface between two profound chasms. The only 
passages which attain a depth of 500 fathoms between the inner and outer waters 
are the Windward Channel, between Cuba and Haiti, and a few openings in the 
chain of the Lesser Antilles. 

Taken as a whole, the inland sea is divided into two natural basins, whose limits 
are indicated by the Yucatan peninsula and the island of Cuba. To the north-west 
lies the Gulf of Mexico, to the south-east the Caribbean Sea, each of which is again 
divided into two distinct sections. The Gulf, so remarkable for the regularity of 
its contour Knes and the uniform level of its bed, presents on its east side an outer 
basin of triangular shape comprised between Cuba, the Florida peninsula, and the 
Bahama Islands. Similarly, the Caribbean Sea, enclosed south-eastwards by the 
dee]) oval amphitheatre stretching from Jamaica through the Antilles round to the 
Vcuczuclau mainland, develops north-westwards towards the Gulf an extremely 
irregular secondary basin between Cuba, Honduras, and Yucatan, a basin of vary- 
ing depths, intersected by submarine banks, and presenting several profound 
cavities. The main axis of both seas is disposed in the direction from north-west 
to south-east between the parallel lines of Central America and the Lesser 

Progress of Explor.\tions — Soundings. 

These American waters are amongst the best known on the surface of the globe. 
Their systematic exploration began in 1872 on the west side of Florida under the 



direction of the American oflBcers attached to the Coast Survey. Howell, Pour- 
tales, Alexander Agassiz, Bartlett, Sigsbee, Baird, and others, have studied this 
maritime region from every point of view, and their labours are still continued in 
constantly-increasing detail. Not only have careful soundings been everywhere 
taken, but the most sensitive instrimients have been used to determine the varying 
temperature at different depths, the course of the upper and lower currents, their 
saline properties, thermometric deviations, and so forth. Special attention has been 
paid to the marine fauna down to the darkest recesses of the abyss, and thus have 

Fig. 157.— Gulp op Mexico. 

Scale 1 : 18.500,000. 


A'est or Gree 

to 230 

250 to 500 


500 to 1,000 

1.000 to 1,750 

300 Miles, 

1.750 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

been made many startling discoveries, which open marvellous vistas into the past 
evolution of life on the globe. 

The outer basin between Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida, through which the 
Gulf Stream escapes northwards, is comparatively shallow, being almost entireh- 
occupied by banks, with intervening channels 200 to 300 fathoms deep. South- 
eastwards, however, the deeper Old Bahama Channel skirts the north side of Cuba 
to a great distance, in several places presenting cavities of over 1,000 fathoms. 
At the entrance of the Xew Bahama Channel, due north of Havana, the soundings 
have revealed an abyss of 8-jO fathoms. 

But the circular inner basin of the GuK is much deeper, the whole of the 

z 2 



central part having an average depth of 1,500 fathoms for a space that may be 
estimated at nearly one half of the entire area. Towards the centre a vast plain 
runs north-east and south-west for nearly H miles, at a depth of nearly 2,000 

The Yucatan channel between the Gulf and the Caribbean Sea sinks lo 1,000 
fathoms off ihe west point of Cuba, but elsewhere it is much shallower. At its 
southern entrance, another secondary triangular basin, the " Yucatan Pit," 
between Cuba, Yucatan, and Honduras, has a nearly uniform dejith of 2,250 
fathoms, falling in one place to 2,-300. But it is limited southwards by the shallow 
bank whose crest is indicated by the chain, of the Cayman and Misteriosa islets 
stretching from Cape Cruz in Cuba westwards towards British Honduras. South 

Pig. 158. — Caeibbean Sea. 
Scale 1 : 3,cior>,noo. 


to 100 

100 to 1,250 

1,250 to 2,500 

2,500 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

60 Miles. 

of the Cayman ridge is developed the " Bartlett Pit," a much larger basin extend- 
ing from the Bay Islands near the Honduras coast for about 950 miles to the 
Windward Channel between Cuba and Haiti. Here occurs the greatest depth 
yet recorded in the American Mediterranean, a chasm of 3,430 fathoms, 21 miles 
south of Gieat Cayman, terminal crest of a vast submarine mountain. No other 
example is found in the whole world of such an enormous difference of level 
within such a narrow space. The submerged range of the Caymans is skirted on 
its south side by a depression with a mean depth of 3,000 fathoms. 

South of this depression the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cape Gracias- 
a-Dios on tlio mainland is again half-closed by a submarine ridge rising to the 
surface at the Pedi-o, Kosalind, and Mosquitos banks. About 1 24 miles south-west 



of Jamaica the section thus closed has an extreme depth of over 600 fathoms. 
Beyond the Serranilla, Bajo Xuevo, Combey, and a few other cays, the vast expanse 
of the Caribbean waters gradually deepens eastwards to abysses of 1,000, 1,500, 
2,000, and 2,500 fathoms ; north of the Dutch Islands on the Venezuelan coast it 
falls even to 2,600 fathoms, but again shoals in the direction of the Bird or Aves 

The islands which form the outer rumpart of the Caribbean Sea rise like the 
ruined piers of a bridge, between which flow the currents and counter-currents of 
the Atlantic waters, ilost of the Antilles are connected by submerged sills, none 

Fig. 159.— The Pueeto Eico Abyss. 

Scale 1 : 600,000. 

n to 2,000 


2,000 to 2,500 

2 500 to .%000 

3,000 to 3 500 

3,500-0 4,000 

4.000 fathoms 
and npwaiils. 

12 Sliles. 

of which exceed 500 fathoms except the passage between the Virgin Islands and 
Sombrero, and the two channels north and south of Martinique. But the sub- 
marine bank on which the islands rest falls rapidly towards the Atlantic, where 
the 2,000-fathom line is scarcely anywhere more than 20 miles from the insular 
groups. The deepest cavity yet revealed in the whole of the Atlantic occurs at a 
point due north of Puerto Rico, where the soundings have recorded a depth of 
4,560 fathoms. 

Catchmest Basixs. 

Of the two great inland basins, the Gulf is about one-sixth smaller and very 
much shallower than the Caribbean Sea. "W"ere its level to be suddenly lowered 



about 100 fathoms, a space of some 200,000 square miles, or more than oue-third 
of the whole area, would form continuous land with the surrounding shores. 

But if account be taken of their respective areas of drainage, the relations 
wiU be reversed, greatly to the advantage of the Gulf. Thus while this inland 
sea has an extent of only 615,000 square miles, compared with the 750,000 of the 
Caribbean Sea, the catchment basin of the former is about six times more extensive 

Fig. 160. — Slopes deainino to the Ameeican Mediteeraneas. 
Scale 1 : 60,000,000. 


Fluvial b:l^in of the 
American Mediterrauean. 

to 2,000 

2,000 to 4,000 

4,000 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

, 1,250 Miles. 

than that of the latter — 2,250,000 and 360,000 square miles respectively. Owing 
to the peculiar conformation of the North American continent, with its two outer 
escarpments and great central depression, most of its surface waters are discharged 
along the line of the meridian, north to the Arctic Ocean and Iludson Bay, south 
to the Gulf of Mexico, which receives the Mississippi, most copious of all North 
American rivers. Thanks to this single affluent, the area of the Gulf catchment 


basin is at once more than doubled. This basin also comprises all the streams of 
the southern states from "West Florida to Texas, besides the Eio Grande del Xorte 
and the rivers of East Mexico and of South Yucatan as far as the Terminos lagoon. 
On the other hand the Caribbean Sea receives no contributions except from the 
eastern slopes of the comparatively narrow isthmian region, and from the north- 
west corner of the South American continent, whence come the Atrato, the 
ilaffdalena and the Zulia. 

Marine Currents. 

In the American Mediterranean the tidal currents are profoundlymodificd by 
the insular barriers developed round a great part of its periphery. As in the 
Mediterranean of the eastern hemisphere, the difference between high and low 
water is verv slight, the highest tides in the Gulf near Apalachicola, in Florida, 
averaging rather less than 4 feet, and at the harbour of Eoatan Island, in the 
Caribbean Sea, a little over 5 feet. But the phenomenon presents great irregu- 
larities according to the shifting character of the marine and atmospheric currents. 
In some places the two semi-diurnal tidal waves are merged in one, and such 
discrepancies often occur in bays or inlets lying close together. Thus on the west 
coast of Florida the flow lasts six hours, and twelve in Apalachicola Bay on the 
opposite side of the peninsula, while it resumes its normal period on the Texan 

Both the Gulf and the Caribbean Sea are sufficiently open to admit the regular 
flow of the great oceanic streams ; but numerous coimter- currents and eddies are 
caused by the irregular coast- lines. The vast volume of the equatorial stream, 
which sets steadily westwards at a mean velocity of from 2i to 3 miles an 
hour, and which impinges on the coasts of Brazil, Guiana and the TTest Indies, 
is not entirelv deflected northwards, for a considerable portion is still able to 
continue its westerly course between the islands. The current penetrating into 
the Gulf of Paria, between Trinidad and Venezuela, is strong enough to neutralise 
the ebb and give the flow a velocity of nearly 6 miles an hour. Thus are pro- 
duced formidable bores, while the conflicting currents churn up the sands and 
mud of the bay, giving the water a ruddy tinge for vast spaces. The name of 
Boca del Drago, " Dragon's Mouth," given by Columbus to the strait between 
the north-west extremity of Trinidad and the Paria peninsula, is confirmed by all 
mariners navigating that dangerous passage. Xorth of Trinidad the equatorial 
stream flows through the strait of Tobago at a less rapid rate, averaging H 
mUe an hour, but sometimes attaining double or treble that speed. Farther north 
access is given to the great ocean stream through other passages, and especially 
through the channel, over 500 fathoms deep, between St. Lucia and Martinique. 

These various branches of the equatorial current, converging in the Caribbean 
Sea, lose in velocity what they gain in expansion. Their united waters broaden 
out to such an extent northwards that a portion returns to the Atlantic through 
Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and St. Domingo. The normal westerly 
movement through the Caribbean Sea is estimated at from 10 to '20 cubic miles 



per day. But the whole basin is not filled by this vast body, which in some places 
gives rise to lateral counter-currents and backwaters, as between Colon and Carta- 
gena, where the reflux has a velocity of 1 mile an hour. 

After passing at an accelerated speed through the Banks Strait, between 
Jamaica and the Jlosquitos reefs, the main stream is joined by an affluent setting 
from the Atlantic through the Windward Channel. Hence an enormous liquid 
mass passes at a velocity of from 2 to 3 miles through the Strait of Yucatan 
into the Gulf of Mexico, where it takes the name of the " Gulf Stream." 

At first it ramifies into two branches, one of which, following the north coast 
of Cuba, sets towards Florida Strait, while the other broadens out in the spacious 
basin of the Gulf and develops an intricate system of counter-currents. Towards 

Fig. 161.— Mai.v Cuerexts of the Aileeican Mediteekaxean. 
Scale 1 : 40.000,000. 


Chief submarine banks. 

. 620 Mfles. 

the centre of this nearly circular sea the waters .seem to be in a state of equili- 
brium, while at the periphery they move parallel with, but at some distance from, 
the surrounding coasts. South of the Mississippi delta the turbid fluid of the 
great river is impelled in a straight line eastwards by the blue waters of the Gulf 
Stream. Thus a junction is effected of the two branches about the southern 
entrance of Florida Strait, through which the whole mass disembogues like a 
mighty river in the broad Atlantic. At the narrowest part, between Jupiter 
Inlet on the Florida side and Memory Rock in the Bahamas, the stream is con- 
tracted to a width of 56 miles, with an extreme depth of 450 fathoms. In this 
(;outractcd channel the velocitj' varies from 2 to 6 miles, the average being 
about ;], and the discharge, according to Bartlett, 175 billions of cubic feet 
per second, or 15,v60 trillions per day. 









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Such proportions are difficult to grasp, for they represent a moving mass cqiuil 
to about 30(.l,000 rivers such as the Mississippi. Yet they are still far inferior 
to the prodigious volume of relatively tepid water spread over the surface of the 
North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In fact, the Gulf Stream issuing from Florida 
Strait supplies only a small portion of those tepid waters whose influence is felt 
as far cast as Novaya Zemlia. The main supply comes from that portion of the 
equatorial current which is deflected northwards by the barrier of the West India 
Islands, and which is joined by the Gulf Stream south of the Bermudas. 

Atmospheric Cukrents — Hurricanes. 

"Where they enter the Caribbean Sea the atmospheric have not quite the same 
mean direction ns the marine currents. These set mainly from south-east to 
north-west, whereas the trade winds blow nearly always from the east or north- 
east. The deviations occur especially in the neighbourhood of the coasts. The 
north-east trade, which on the Venezuelan mainland maintains its normal course, 
veers round to the east along the Central American seaboard, and reaches the 
shores of Jamaica and Cuba from the south-east. But the greatest disturbance 
in the regular aerial system is caused by the sudden squalls from the north, which 
sweep from the Polar regions down the Mississippi valley to the Gulf. 

The American Mediterranean is also exposed to hurricanes, whose very Carib 
name {hurakait, huiraHVUcan) shows that the European navigators regarded these 
atmospheric distui-bances as peculiar to the West Indian waters. Their main 
direction about coincides with the insular chain of the Lesser Antilles and 
Bahamas ; but after reaching the extreme convexity of their curvature in the 
south-eastern region of the United States, they are deflected north-eastwards, 
arriving in a somewhat exhausted state on the European seaboard. 

In the West Indian waters their normal direction is merged in that of the 
magnetic needle without declination, passing from the Guianas through St. 
Vincent and Puerto Rico towards South Carolina, and crossing the Caribbean 
Sea in a period varying from two to four days. The parts of the American 
Mediterranean most remote from this main axis are also the least exposed to the 
fury of the hurricanes. But the oft-repeated statement that Trinidad, the 
southern Dutch islands, the mainland and isthmian inlets from Honduras to 
Vera Cruz lie beyond the cyclonic zoue is not correct, as shown by the wreckage 
strewn over the roadsteads of Panama and Colon, and the destruction of Blew- 
fields, though these disasters are certainly rare. 

The hurricanes are also said to occur only at the end of summer or beginning 
of autumn, when the heated surface of South America attracts the cooler and 
denser air of the northern continent. But although most frequent in August, 
and generally between July and October, such disturbances have also been 
recorded at other times. Few years pass without some disaster taking place at 
one point or another of the normal storm zone. Houses have been uprooted like 
trees, fortresses have been demolished, ships carried far inland, plantations strewn 



with huge blocks, islands broken into reefs, reefs piled up into islands. The 
"great hurricane" of October 10, 178G, levelled cities, wrecked fleets, and — 

' • Amid the common woe, 
Reconciled the French and Eng-lish foe " — 

who were preparing to cut each others' throats. 

Tempekature, Marine Flora axd Fauna. 

Swirling round the "West Indian basin, as in a seething cauldron, the inner 
waters are necessarily warmer, and, owing to the greater evaporation, also 

Fig. 162.— Deep-Sea Tesipeeatuees in the Atlaxiic asd West Ixdia AVatees. 

Scale 1 : 27,(500,OOn. 

1 ^^^^-.M. IM 

G20 -Miles. 

relatively more saline than those of the open sea. But the contrast in tempera- 
ture is observed chiefly at the lower depths, as is aLso the case in the European 
Mediterranean. At depths of 700 or 800 fathoms the Atlantic has a temperature 
of about 40° Fahr., which is the same as that of Bartlett's trough in the Caribbean 
Sea at over 3,000 fathoms. But at such a depth in the Atlantic the temperature 
descends to 37°, 3-5^, and even 33° Fahr. 

The West Indian waters are remarkable for the extreme abundance of the 
species of sargasso known by the name of " tropical grapes." It drifts for 



interminable distances with the ebb and flow, and in certain places, such as the 
trough north of Puerto Eico, it covers spaces vast enough to merit the name of 
"marine prairies." This plant is not entirely of pelagic origin, for it grows 
also on the rocks of the Antilles and Bahamas and on the reefs of Florida. 
But botanists who have explored the Sargasso Sea have been unable to determine 
the process of reproduction, which seems to be effected by the continuous growth 
of fresh shoots or sprouts, which become detached from the parent stem by the 
action of the waves. 

Till recently it was supposed that the marine fauna was confined to the 
surface or shallow waters, and that the stilhiess of death reigned in the gloomy 

Fig. 163. — Deposits on the Bed of the Atlajstic axd West India Watees. 

Scale 1 : 46,000,000. 

Globigerine Eed clay. Corals, SilioKnis Earthy deposits, rteropod 

mod. Coralline mud. siuds. tellurian mud. mud. 

. 620 Miles. 

recesses of the deep. But the dredgings of the Blahe and of other exploring 
vessels in depths of over 2,000 fathoms have already increased the number of 
crustacean forms from 20 to 150 species grouped under 40 new genera. The 
deep waters of Florida, studied by Pourtales, are also found to be extremelj' rich 
in forms resembling the fossils of former geological epochs, and comprising 
numerous phosphorescent species. In certain places the marine bed is covered 
with living organisms, and in the channels of the Lesser Antilles, near Guadeloupe, 
and the Saintes, about St. Vincent and Barbadoes, dense forests of pentacrini 
undulate on the bottom like aquatic plants on stagnant waters. 

The geological character of these marine beds and of the surrounding shores is 
far more varied than in the Atlantic Ocean. The muddy deposits in the central 



parts of the Gulf and of the Caribbean Sea are derived chiefly from the remains of 
pteropods, while mineral formations prevail round the seaboard. Silicious sands 
also cover the beach in some places, and coralline muds or calcareous formations 
surround the reefs and continue far seawards several peninsulas, amongst others 
those of Yucatan and Florida. 

The coral builders are at work over a vast range, which maj^ be estimated at 
one-fourth of the marine surface ; to their incessant toil must be attributed the 

Fig. 161. — Aneqada and the Hobseshoe Reef. 
Scale 1 : 380,000. 


^est oF Greenvvtch 





16 to 80 

80 to 3-20 

oM Feet 
iiud upwai'ds. 

6 Miles. 

formation of those calcareous plateaux by which the straits are contracted on both 
sides, as well as of those rocky ledges which are washed by high tides, and which 
are revealed only by sandy dunes, such as the Salt Cay, or bj- their fringe of 
mangroves, such as the Aneguda, and its prolongation — the dreaded Horseshoe 
reef — connecting it with the Virgin Islands. More than half of the Cuban sea- 
board, the various groups of the Bahamas, the eastern members of the Lesser 
Antilles, and the Bermudas are all of coralline oriaiu. 


liAxn Fr.ORA Axn Favxa. 

The land floras and faunas of the Great and Lessor Antilles are of extreme 
interest to naturalists, owing to the endless contrasts and resemblances that they 
present from island to island, and to the means thus offered of determining the 
original continuity or geological independence of the several groups. The great 
diversity of forms in the different islands has been regarded as a proof of long 
isolation. Each island has forms peculiar to itself, and if the various types from 
the mainland speak of communications through isthmuses at remote epochs, it is 
evident that such migrations must date from pre-tertiary times, and that the 
postulated West Indian isthmus, it it ever directly connected the northern and 
southern continents, has ceased for many ages to ofFer a free passage to plants 
and animals. 

The special faunas are most pronounced in the hind shells, the Antilles occupy- 
ing in this respect a unique position. For these organisms each island may be 
said to constitute an independent centre of evolution. Nevertheless, the Great 
Antilles as far as the Virgin group must at some remote epoch have been 
attached to Mexico, the Lesser Antilles on the one hand to Venezuela, on the 
other to the Guianas. 

The birds, which, for the most part, easily cross intervening straits, have 
spread from island to island over vast spaces. Certain species have even been 
wafted b)' hurricanes across broad marine channels ; the pelican appears to have 
been first introduced into Guadeloupe in this way in the year 1685. 

The West Indies possess fifteen distinct species of the humming-bird, grouped 
in eiglit genera, of which five are unknown on the neighbouring mainland. On 
the whole the avifauna seems more related to that of the southern than of the 
northern continent, while the reptile order has greater affinities with those of 
Central America and Mexico. But some remarkable instances of specialisation 
have been observed ; such are an iguana peculiar to Haiti and the islet of Navaza, 
and a trigonocephalus confined to St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Martinique. The 
Cuban ant-eaters belong to a group found elsewhere only in Madagascar. 

In general the insular faunas and floras belong to the same zone as South 
Florida as far as the marshy everglades, but have little afiinity with those of 
the L^nited States proper. Analogies occur most frequently with ^Mexico, Honduras 
and the other Central American regions. The deep-sea fauua, also, is more akin 
to that of the Pacific than of the Atlantic Ocean, proving that before the chalk 
period the Central American isthmuses formed a chain of islands with broad 
intervening marine channels. 

. The term Antilles, applied to the West Indian insular world, dates from a 
period anterior to the discovery itself. Antilia was one of the islands of the 
Gloomy Ocean, figuring on the maps at one time as an archipelago, at another 
as continuous land and wandering up and down the seas between the Canaries and 
East India. With the progress of discovery Antilia continually retreated more 
towards the setting sun, until it was at last identified with the " West Indies " 
discovered bj- Columbus. 



Like the animal species, the inhabitants of the Antilles at the arrival of 
Columbus in 1492 represented immigrants from the three continental regions of 
North, Central, and South America. Although these populations have all 
disappeared, with the exception of a few half-caste Caribs removed to the Hon- 
duras mainland, the accounts of the early Spanish chroniclers, the traditions and 
usages of the natives, the little that has been preserved of their languages, have 
enabled ethnologists to reconstruct the history of their migrations to some, at least, 
of the insular groups. 

The present inhabitants are mainly of mixed origin, Europe, Africa, and even 
Asia having contributed even more than America to the re-peopling of the 
archipelagoes. The Chinese and Hindus are found in almost every island, while 
the Africans, numerically the dominant element, have come from every part of 
the Dark Continent, introduced as slaves before the abolition of the traffic in human 
flesh. The whites also come from almost every country in Europe. The Casti- 
lians and Andalusians, descendants of the first conquerors and settlers, are stiU 
numerous by the side of Catalonians, Basques, Galicians, and other later arrivals 
from the Iberian peninsula. English, Scotch, and Irish settlers from the United 
Kingdom here meet their kinsmen from the United States. French, Dutchmen, 
Danes, are also numerously represented, and to all these European elements must 
be added the so-called " engaged," that is, whites formerly purchased for a 
temporary period of servitude, besides the descendants of the buccaneers and 

For the three centuries following the discovery the political and social rela- 
tions in the "West Indies were in a state of chaos. A ruthless spirit of rivalry 
prevailed amongst traders, planters, and other adventurers ; Hfe and liberty were 
at a discount ; on the same island neighbouring promontories were occupied by 
hostile communities, who went about armed to the teeth, watching each other, 
and ever on the look out for an opportunity of falling upon and murdering their 
chronic enemies. Trading vessels lay concealed during the day in some secluded 
creek behind a curtain of mangrove bush, cautiously venturing on the open seas 
at night. Every distant sail was an object of suspicion, for every man's hand 
was raised against his neighbours, and even when the Great Powers were at 
peace, hostilities were continued by the filibusters on their own account, and 
where they swooped down, nothing was left except smoking ruins and wasted 

Yet the high prices commanded by sugar, coffee, tobacco, and other colonial 
produce offering the chance of making rapid fortunes, continually attracted fresh 
speculators, ready to risk their lives in a deadly cHmatc, and surrounded by con- 
stant perils from war, arson, and lawless raiding. To clear the ground and 
cultivate their fields they had no longer the aid of the aborigines, exterminated 
(luring the first years of the conquest ; but they kept under the lash gangs of 
blacks imported from Africa by the slavers. 



But out of all tliis chaos of wars and slavery, of standing feuds and rivalries, 
there gradually arose colonies of peaceful populations, ■whose heterogeneous primi- 
tive elements have been merged in a small numher of types with well-marked 

Pig. 165.— Sxake-Catcheb axd Cuabcoal Girl. jrAETnaoTTE. 

transitions. The majority are half-breeds, people of colour sprung from the 
alliance of European men with negresses from Africa. Between these two distinct 
elements a complete fusion has taken place, to such an extent that, of the five 



million inhabitants of the Antilles, at least three millions belong to the mulatto 
element. Yet this mongrel race has sprung up in spite of the severe enactments 
promulgated against such miscegenation. In the French Antilles, whites convicted 
of being the fathers of coloured children were mulcted in heavy fines, and their 
offspring confiscated for the benefit of the hospitals without the option of ransom. 
A repetition of the offence involved ear-cropping, and even hamstringing, in case 
of repeated attempts at escape. 

Notwithstanding the measures taken to prevent combinations and conspiracies 
on the part of the slaves, those of San Domingo, who were called in 1790 to 
exercise their political rights, felt themselves also strong enough to vindicate their 
right to the title of men. After two years of struggle they compelled the home 

Fig. 16<). — Prepondeeance of the White and Black Races ts the West Ln-dies. 

f-cale 1 : 30,000,000. 

Preponderance of the whites. 

Prpponder.ance of the blacks. 
. 620 Miles. 

government to issue the edict of emancipation which Bonaparte, eight years 
afterwards, in vain attempted to revoke. This was the beginning of the new era 
for the Antilles, where slavery was eventually abolished in the British colonies 
in 1832, in the French islands in 1848. The work of social transformation was 
completed in 1886, when the last slave was liberated in Cuba. 

Despite the differences of origin, the "Creoles" of the Antilles, that is, all 
natives of the islands, whether white or coloured, present certain outward resem 
blanccs, due to their common environment. They are usually well-made, shapely, 
vigorous and active, brave, lively, and quick-witted, but also at times vain- 
glorious, untrustworthy, and indolent. A remarkable fact, attested by many 
observers, is that the blacks and people of colour have moulded themselves in the 
several islands on their former masters, reproducing their good qualities and short- 


coinings. Between the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish negroes the same 
contrasts have been observed as between the peoples whose speech they have 
adopted, and with whom they have become more and more associated iu their 
traditions and habits of thought. 

As regards their speech, the negro English patois is less harmonious than 
the French Creole, but it is equally lively and terse. Apart from a few simple 
expressions, the uninitiated Englishman would never succeed in understanding his 
mother-tongue as spoken by the Jamaica or Barbadoes islanders. Of all the local 
jargons, the luost corrupt is the papamienlo of the Venezuelan seaboard, in which 
the chief elements are Dutch and Spanish, and which has preserved a_few Carib 
and Goajir terms. 

The West Indies are about three or four times more densely peopled than Mexico 
or Central America. 'Xhey have also developed a much larger foreign trade, esti- 
mated at present at a total j-early value of about £27,000,000. The various groups 
are connected by numerous lines of steamers, while the larger islands have been 
brought into telegraphic communication with the rest of the world by submarine 
cables to America and Europe. 

In their political distribution the islands do not follow their natural divisions. 
The two independent republics of Haiti and St. Domingo occupy the large central 
island far removed from the republics of the mainland, and intervening between 
the Spanish possessions of Cuba on the west and Puerto Eico on the east. To the 
share of England have fallen Jamaica and the Caymans on the side of Cuba, the 
Bahamas and Bermuda in the open Atlantic, and numerous members of the Lesser 
Antilles. A few islands of the same chain belong to France and Denmark, while 
those of Holland are partly in this chain, partly in the group contiguous to the 
Venezuelan coast. 

The various political groups will be found tabulated in the Appendix. 

VOL. xvii. 4 A 



UBA, largest of the Antilles, occupies a central geographical position 
between the GuK of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It was the 
first extensive stretch of land discovered by Columbus in the N'ew 
"World, although with strange obstinacy he persisted in regarding 
it as a peninsula of the Old World, like the mysterious Zimpango 
of the far East. His account is too vague to determine the s^Dot where he first 
landed, more esjjecially as the island of Guanahani, whence he reached Cuba, 
remains itself still unidentified. 

According to Las Casas and Herrera it was at Baracoa, near the eastern 
extremity of the island, that he first beheld " the fairest lands that the sun shines 
on and that the eye has ever seen." Navarrete thinks that Nipe was the first 
Cuban port entered by the caravels of Columbus, while Washington Irving 
removes the spot farther west to the port of Nuevitas. But in any case, in 1492, 
that is, during his first voyage, the navigator coasted a great part of the north-east 
side, and in 1494, during his second voyage, he traced the southern shores, with all 
their bays and inlets, as far as the present Cortes Bay, not far from the western 
extremity of the island. It was here, within 60 miles of the terminal headland, 
that he assembled his crews to appeal to their testimony that Cuba was no island, 
but really a part of the mainland. Nevertheless he must have had his doubts, for 
he had even recourse to threats, and any exf)ression of opinion contrary to his own 
might, in fact, at that time have cost the scejDtic the loss of ears or tongue. 

Thus Cuba continued, by decree of the admiral, to be an Asiatic peninsula 
down to the year 1508, when Ocainpo, coasting the north side, reached Cape San 
Antonio, and passed rouud the island through the Yucatan channel. Three years 
later, the Spaniards took possession of Cuba, where they founded their first settle- 
ment, Baracoa. 

The contour-line of the seaboard has been gradually traced by careful maritime 
surveys, while the development of the interior, the construction of roads and rail- 
ways, have supplied materials for a tolerably correct map of the island. But no 
beginning has yet been made with the geodetic measurements needed for the con- 
struction of a topographic chart on a level with those of AYest Europe. 

The various names given to the island during the first years of the discovery 
— Juana, Fernandina, Santiago, Ave Maria, Alfa y Omega — have all been for- 


gotten, and Cubanacan, tlic native name of a part of the central region near the 
present district of the " Five Towns," has survived under the mutihited Spanish 
form of Cuba, the Coube of the French buccaneers. Most of the old names of 
districts and provinces have also been preserved, and still recall the long-vanished 
primitive populations. 

Physical Fe.4.tures. 
Amongst American islands Cuba presents a unique form, which by Spanish 
geographers has often been compared to a " bird's tongue." From Maisi Point to 

Fig. 107. — La Coube (Cuba) ajtd the Mee de Lentille. 

Cape San Antonio it describes a curve of 900 miles with a mean breadth of not more 
than 60 miles. But the characteristic feature of its geography is the contrast pre- 
sented by the coastlands. The eastern section, running from Maisi Point westwards 
to Cape Cruz and dominated by the Sierra Maestra, or main insular range, may be 
regarded as the fundamental or primitive part of the land ; the western, comprising 
all the rest, both north and south, presents a more changing and uncertain 
character in its chains of reef, its shallows, islands, and islets. 

The primitive seaboard is distinguished by its re.ctilinear axis, which is coa- 

A A 



tinued seawards by the Caymans, tlie series of the Misteriosa bauks, and a sub- 
marine ridge between the Bartlett and Yucatan troughs south and north. Even 
the Coxcomb Mountains, the backbone of British Honduras, form part of this 
western continuation of the Cuban relief. The other sections of the seaboard 
nowhere present this rectilinear formation, but on the contrary develop irregular 
curves, and in many places they are so fringed with coral reefs and marshy tracts 
that it seems almost impossible to trace the true coast- line with any certainty. 


ICS. — WrsTEEX Dmsios of Cuba. 
Scale 1 : 6,OOC,000. 

vVest oF breenwich 


2,noi1 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 124 Miles. 

Ilence Pichardo's estimate of 2,200 miles as the total length of the periphery can 
only be accepted in a general way, apart from the thousand creeks and inlets, and 
the outer lines of fringing reefs. On Esteban Pichardo's large map in twenty- 
two sheets, the contour, with all indentations, actually exceeds 0,800 miles. 

According toCoello the superficial area is 45,000, and, including the double Isle 
of Pines and the other islets on butli sides, 47,000 square miles. In other words, 
Cuba is nearly equal in size to all the rest of the "West India islands ; it is larger 
than Portugal, and neirly one-fourth the size of the mother country. 



Cuba, however, is exceeded in altitude and general relief by 8:iu Domingo. 
The only well-defined mountain range is the Sierra Maestra, which rises abruptly- 
above the water's edge on the coast over against Jamaica. The range 
begins at the sharp headland of Cape Cruz, and rises rapidly through a series of 
terraces to a height of 3,300 feet in the Ojo del Toro crest. Farther on the chain 
culminates in a summit usually called the Pico de Tarquino, perhaps a corruption 
of I'ico Turquiuo, or " Blue Peak," which is variously estimated at from 6,900 to 

Fig. 1G9.— Easteen DmsiON of Cuba. 
Scale 1 : 6,000,000. 

to 500 


500 to 1,000 

1,000 to 2,000 

2,100 Fathoms 
aud upwards. 

, 124 Miles. 

8,400 feet. Here the mountains, falling precipitously seawards, merge inland in a 
broad plateau, whose furrowed slopes incline towards the Rio Cauto valley. But 
farther on the chief range, here called the Sierra del Cobre ("Copper ilountains"), 
is gradually contracted, and after developing an amphitheatre of low hills round 
the city of Santiago, dies out on the marshy banks of the Rio Guantanamo. One 
of the peaks in the Sierra del Cobre takes the name of La Gran Piedra (5,200 feet) 
from a huge block of conglomerate poised on the summit. The main formation of 
the Sierra ^Maestra consists of diorites and porphyries underlying tertiary rocks. 


inter.spersed near Santiago witli Irachytes and basalts, but with no trace of recent 
lavas, scoria;, pumice, or volcanic craters. Yet in this region of tlic island earth- 
quakes are most frequent and violent. 

A transverse depression separates the Sierra Maestra and the plateau on which 
it stands irom the rest of the island. The mountains strewn in disorder over the 
eastern extremity of Cuba constitute a system quite distinct from the main range, 
and far more irregularly disposed. They begin at the very headland of Cape 
ilaisi, and are carved by the rivers into numerous secondary groups, which in 
many places terminate in sharp crests, the so-caUed ciichillas, or "knives." 

Near the terminal headland rises the superb truncated cone of the Yunque de 
Paracoa, some 3,300 feet high. Farther on the mountains are continued in 
irregular masses running parallel with the northern seaboard. Here and there 
granites crop out above the calcareous deposits by which they were formerly covered, 
but they nowhere develop dominating crests. The whole upland system falls gradu- 
ally from cast to west, and in the middle of the island all eminences have already 
disajipeared. This part of Cuba, here narrowed to a width of not more than 46 
miles, is partly occupied by marshy coastlands, between which stretches a low-lying 
plain. Before the construction of the railway connecting both coasts, a trocha, 
or track, traversing the forests was regarded as forming the parting-line between 
the two halves of the island. During the insurrection W'hich nearly resulted in 
the separation of Cuba from Spain, the Government troops had erected a line of 
forts along this track in order to close the routes to the western towns and planta- 
tions against the rebels holding the eastern uplands. 

Beyond this central depression the ground again rises to a moderate elevation, 
most of the heights having an altitude of scarcely more than 800 or 1,000 feet. 
But their abrupt slopes and deep rocky ravines impart a wild, rugged aspect to 
these heights, which are separated by intervening rolling ground. According to 
Bodrigucz-Ferrer the culminating-point of this central region is the Potrerillo 
(?,900 feet), north-west of Trinidad in the district of Cinco Villas, on the south side. 
Were the island to subside 300 or 400 feet it would be decomposed into groups 
disposed like the chain of the Bahamas, one of the largest of which would be that 
dominated by the heights lying west of the central dciDression of the Cinco Villas. 

In the western region between Matanzas and Havana the uplands nearer the 
north coast culminate in the Pan de Matanzas (1,300 feet), while west of Havana 
the Cordillera de los Organos rises in the Pan de Guajaibon to a height of about 
2,000 feet. This extreme western range projects its last headland to the north 
of Guadiana Bay, beyond which a low peninsula of sandy dun es, s\\-amps and 
brushwood icrminates in Cape San Antonio on the east side of Yucatan channel. 

The whole of this western part of Cuba usually takes the name of Viiclta de 
Ahdjo, or the Leeward region. Hence the extreme eastern section of the island, 
directly exposed to the trade wind, should take the corresponding designation of 
Vuelia de Arriba, or Windward region. But this term is applied not to the eastern 
but to the central districts, which, relatively to the inhabitants of Havana, already 
lie to windward. 


Except on the uplands Cuba mainly consists of calcareous rocks, wLicli appear 
to have been deposited in the same way as the present fringing reefs have been 
formed, presenting the same irregularities, the same fractures and deep cavities. 
So numerous are the underground galleries that the whole island may be said to 
form a vast vault, beneath which the waters are collected either in streams or 
stagnant reservoirs. Explorers have penetrated for leagues into the labyrinthine 
passages of many caves without reaching the end, and every year fresh discoveries 
are made. In many places rivulets are seen to plunge into chasms, reappearing 
farther on as more copious streams swollen by subterranean affluents. 

In the Yuelta de Abajo a river near Pinar del Rio passes under a superb arch- 
way like that of the bridge at Arc. Elsewhere the running waters flow in narrow 
gulches, where the overhanging walls here and there meet overhead. The best- 
known caverns are those of ilonte Libano (" Mount Lebanon ") in the eastern 
peninsula north of Guantanamo. Kear Cape ilaisi, at the eastern extremity of 
the island, there is also a famous grotto, in which animal remains have been 

Rivers. • • 

Although mostly short and with narrow catchment basins, the Cuban streams 
are generally copious. The Cauto, which . is the largest, flows through the longi- 
tudinal valley along the north slojje of the Sierra ilaestra, where it collects 
numerous affluents on both sides. From the Sierra del Cobre to Manzanillo Bay 
it has a total length of about 130 miles, nearly half of which is navigable for 
small craft ; vessels of 50 tons ascend as far as the village of Cauto, the " Embar- 
cadero," as it is called. In its lower course the mainstream ramifies into two 
branches, and during the floods into several secondary channels intersecting the 
low-lying, themselves the creation of the river. 

The alluvia have even encroached on the sea in a long marshy peninsula, 
which divides the bay into two secondary inlets. In the sixteenth century the 
bar is said to have been much smaller than at present, and at that time a brisk 
trade was carried on in the lower reaches of the river. But in 1G16 a great flood 
shifted the bar and completely closed the mouth of the Cauto. As many as thirty- 
three vessels were suddenly cut off from access to the sea and had to be abandoned 
by their crews, ilany families, ruined by the cessation of traffic, ultimately 
removed to Havana. About the middle of the present century the guns of a man- 
of-war stranded by the disaster were fished up from the muddy bed of the Cauto. 

The other Cuban rivers, of which the largest are the Sagua la Grande and 
Sagua la Chica on the north side, are all far inferior in volume to the Cauto. 
Several, however, are famous for their cascades, their vmderground course, 
reappearance on the surface, and their estuaries. Some fail to reach the sea, 
running out in marshy tracts where the fresh and salt waters are intermingled. 
These swampy districts attain their greatest development along the south coast, 
where the extensive Cienaga de Zapata (''Marsh of Zapata"), south of the Matanzas 
uplands, skirts the shore for a distance of GO miles between the Broa and Cochinos 


emenadas (inlets). This vast morass stands nearly at sea-level ; but although 
almost a dead flat, it presents a great diversity of aspects. In some places the stag- 
nant waters are dammed up by sandy strips along the coast ; in others the surface 
is concealed by dense mangrove thickets ; elsewhere channels without perceptible 
current, the remains of former rivers, wind sluggishly amid the sedge ; here and 
there open sheets of water sparkle in the sun, while others disappear beneath the 
round loaves of water-lilies (iieniip/iar). In certain districts the ground is firm 
enough to support a clump of trees ; but most of the surface consists of quagmires 
or boggy expanses inaccessible to man or beast. The term savaim la mar, 
applied to many places on the shores of the Antilles, recalls the primitive aspect of 
the savannas now partly flooded by the marine waters. 

Reefs and Cays. 

Beyond the coastline the islets and fringing reefs constitute, like the inland 
morasses, a transitional zone between land aud sea. About half of the Cuban 
seaboard is thus marked by a false shore which greatly obstructs the coast naviga- 
tion, but which, on the other hand, presents many sheltered expanses once the 
outer line of breakers is crossed or turned. All these fringing reefs are of recent 
calcareous origin, being the creation of the same coral-builders that may be seen 
through the transparent waters still at work on the marine bed, decking rocks 
and sands with their graceful and many-coloured tufts of foliage. 

The upheaved cliffs, with their cavernous recesses washed by the swirling tide, 
represent in the incessant changes of the terrestrial surface the geological epoch 
which follows the formation of the inland calcareous rocks with grottoes watered 
by " babbling brooks." But they are of slower growth than the reefs of Florida 
and the Bahamas turned towards the ocean swell, where the polyps thrive better 
than on less exposed shores. On the north side of Cuba the growth of the fring- 
ing reefs has been slow enough for the coast streams to maintain their estuaries 
in the form of lagoons while the calcareous deposits were forming on both sides. 
Hence the unusual number of excellent havens developed along the Cuban seaboard. 

Some of the cays are large enough to form veritable islands, inhabitable in the 
few places where fresh water lodges in the depressions or wells up through the 
porous rocks. Thus the Cayo del Sabinal, as well as those of Guajaba, Romano 
and Cocos, separated by narrow channels, develop an outer coastline over 120 
miles in length ; the Cayo Romano, largest of these upheaved reefs, has an 
estimated area of 180 square miles, and its surface is broken by three hillocks. 
Natural salt-pans have been formed along the margin of this and the neighbour- 
ing cays ; they consist of depressions from 12 to 16 inches deep, separated from 
the sea by coral banks, over which the waves are washed in stormj' weather. 
Then during the hot season these shallow basins are evaporated, leaving a 
perfectly crystallised bed of white salt used for curing purposes. The pans 
of tlic Cayo Romano alone might supply far more salt than is needed for the 
ordinary consumption of the whole Cuban population. 



The chain of cays from the Siibinal to the Cocos reefs is so regular and pierced 
by such narrow channels that it might be regarded as a long peninsula running 
parallel with the mainland. But farther west it is continued by a series of reefs 
which are breached by wide opouings, and M'hich lie close to the shore, like a 
beach in process of formation, and alreadj^ partly attached to the coast by the 
regular spit of Punta Icacos between Cardenas and Matanzaa. 

Fig. 170.— Cate San Antonio and CoRErENTES Bat. 

Bcalo 1 : 1,300,000. 


5 to 50 


50 to 500 

BOO to 1.000 

: 30 Miles. 

I,fl0<1 Fathoms 
and upwanls 

Including the western chain of reefs and cays the outer shoreline lias a total 
length of over 300 miles. West of Havana other fringing i-cefs extend for about 
140 miles from Bahia Honda to Cape San Antonio. They rest on a coral bed 
ill shallow water, revealing to passing seafarers a shifting panor;ima of algas, 
madrepores, and banks of shells. 

On the south side of Cuba the reefs and islets are even more numerous than 



on the north coast, but they are far less regular, nor are Ihcy disposed parallel 
with the shore. Here the coralline structures are spread out to a great distance 
from the land, wherever the relatively smooth water is not exposed to the scouring 
action of marine currents. 

Thus reefs are somewhat rare on the part of the coast washed by the deep 
"Windward Channel between Cape Maisi and Cape Cruz. They are also absent 
along the middle section of the south coast owing to the neighbourhood of the deep 
Yucatan passage and to the swirling waters of a lateral current. For the same 

Fig. 171. — Jaemntllos. 

Scale 1 : 1,000,000. 

West oF breenwicV* 

Sanda exposed at 
low water. 


25 to 600 

25 Miles. 

reason no coral reefs occur towards the western extremity of the island swept 
by the waters of Corrientes Bay, so named from the currents which impinge on 
this coast and arc thence deflected to Yucatan Channel. 

Manzanillo Bay, on the contrary, is more than half covered with reefs, which 
are continued westwards by the so-called Cayos de las Doce Leguas, the " Twelve 
League cavs." Farther on the Isle of Pines is connected with a labyrinth of 
reefs and islets, of which the best known are those of the Jardines Bank and the 
Jardiuillos, forming a seaward prolongation of the marsh of Zapata. In the 



Jardincs, so named from tho Ycrdurc-clad Islets strewn like "gardens" nmid 
the blue waters, springs of fresh water bubble up from the deep, flowing probablj' 
in subterranean galleries from the mainland. 

The Isla do Pinos (Pinos Island, or Isle of Pines), which lies off the south- 
west coast of Cuba, is alone more extensive than all the other 1,300 isles and 
Islets strewn round tho Cuban seaboard. It consists in reality of two islands 

Fig. 172.— Isle of Pines. 

Scale 1 : nOO.OnO. 

^/est or ^^reenwic 




3 to IG 


IG Feet 
aud upwards. 

IS Miles. 

separated by a tortuous passage, half channel half swamp, which winds at a nearly 
uniform width for about 3 miles from west to east. This cicnaga, or "," 
as the Spaniards call it, is a ricierc salee (" salt river ") analogous to that of 
Guadeloupe. Towards its eastern extremity a few rocky ledges flush with the 
water have been utilised to make a camino dc picdran ("stone causeway") between 
the two sections of the island. 


A great contrast is presented by these sections : that on the north is diversified 
■ with " sierras," groups of hills, and isolated eminences, one of the summits in 
the Sierra de la Canada rising to a height of 1,540 feet ; but the southern section 
is everywhere low, although the swamjiy savannas and impassable quagmires are 
here and there interrupted by sharp rocks, intersected by fissures and pierced by 
schonicofi, or pits. This part of the island seems to have been upheaved in 
relatively recent times, for even within the historic period various islets on the 
coast have been merged in continuous land by the mangrove thickets spreading 
over the intervening straits and shallows. 

Similar phenomena have been observed at other points of the Cuban seaboard 
where certaiu banks of dead coral, built by the same polyps that still inhabited 
the surrounding waters, stand at present at a height of over 30 feet above sea- 
level. The hills in the neighbourhood of Havana, some of which are over 1,000 
feet high, are certainly of coralline origin. 


The climate of Cuba, which lies entirely within the tropical zone, corresponds 
to that of the neighbouring seas. Here the atmosjDheric phenomena present 
great uniformity in their main features, and in this region, at the very source of 
the Gulf Stream and of the aerial currents sweeping across the Atlantic to West 
Europe, many of the disturbing elements of the north temperate zone may be 
conveniently studied. 

But even in Cuba itself, which stretches across eleven degrees of the meridian 
from the Atlantic towards Yucatan, considerable climatic contrasts have been 
observed. Everj'where northern winds prevail, especially in winter, and every- 
where the rains are most copious in siimmer, when the sun passes the zenith. 
But as a rule the rains brought by the trade winds are more frequent and heavier 
towards the eastern than the western extremity, on the northern than on the 
southern seaboard. Hail is rare, though thunderstorms are common enough. 
The rainfall is also said to have generally diminished since the destruction of the 
forests, which has taken place especially on the central and eastern lowlands. 
Moreover the rains, which at Havana nominallj' exceed 40 inches, appear to have 
been retarded, falling regularly in June and July, instead of in April and May as 
formerlj% Even where thei-e is no actual precipitation the air is always charged 
with moisture, usually to an extent of over 85 per cent., and this moisture, favour- 
ing the development of minute destructive organisms, renders the preservation 
of archives almost impossible in such a climate. 

The whole of the island lies within the zone of hurricanes, and here the most 
continuous and exact study has been made of these terrible disturbances. The 
hurricane of 1846, which levelled nearly 2,000 houses in Havana, which damaged 
more than 5,000, sank 235 vessels in the harbour and wrecked 48 others, has 
often been referred to as a typical cyclone, though, fortunately, its track was 
limited to a space of not more than about 20 miles. 



Flora, Fauna. 

Cuba, the " Pearl of the Antilles," is indebted for this title especiaUy to the 
wealth and variety of its flora, ia which are represented nearly all the forms 
occurring elsewhere in the TVest Indies and along the Central American seaboard 
from the peninsula of Florida to the Orenoco delta. All the large trees of the 
Mexican coast, so remarkable for their majestic growth, for the beauty of 
their foliage, the splendour and fragrance of their flowers, reappear on the 
Cuban seaboard. Over 30 species of palms are here met in association with trees 
such as the pine, which would seem so characteristic of the temperate zone, and 

Fig. 173. — Pla>-tatios of Pcceapples.- 

which gives its name to the " Pinos " Island, where it is found intermingled with 
palms and mahogany. The catalogue of 1876 enumerates altogether 3,350 indige- 
nous flowering plants, besides those introduced by Europeans. But many of the 
native forms have already disappeared, and the forests are now largely replaced 
by plants of low growth, such as the dwarf fan-palm (chamwrops), scrub, plantations 
of pineapples, and other prickly plants. 

Before the discovery the only mammals in Cuba were bats and a few species 
of rodents, such as the guaquinaji, which was probably a racoon {procyon lotor). 
The manatee, still seen in the JardiniUos cays, was very common on the coast, 
as shown by the names of numerous gulfs, bays and beaches. The guaquinaji 


and two or three otlier indigenous forms have disappeared, while the domestic 
pig and dog, introduced from Europe with the roebuck, have reverted to the 
wild state. In Cuba the canine species rapidly develops new varieties, from the 
little " Havana " lap-dog to the huge bloodhound, till recently employed in captur- 
ing runaway slaves. 

Most of the Cuban birds belong to the North xVmerican fauna, and only one 
species of humming-bird is peculiar to the island. The reptiles also have immi- 
grated from the neighbouring mainland, though it is remarkable that none of the 
local snakes are poisonous. The natives are not a little proud of the fact, and 
even assert that venomous species when introduced gradually lose their poison. 
The bite of the scorpion also is said to cause only a slight irritation. Land 
tortoises abound, and, as elsewhere in the Antilles, the molluscs, of which there 
are several hundred species, are for the most part distinct from those of the 
continent. One of the curiosities of the Cuban fauna is a "vegetating bee," 
a species of polistes, which grows a fungus of the clavaria genus. The pheno- 
menon is analogous to that presented by the New Zealand caterpillar, sp/iceria 

The fossil animals, such as the megalonyx, elephants and hijipopotami, found 
in the mioceue rocks of the United States, have also been discovered in the 
Cuban formations of the same epoch. Hence the inference that at that time the 
island was connected with the neighbouring mainland, and that the Gulf Stream 
must have set in a different direction from its present course. 


Cuba has certainly been inhabited from a very remote epoch. Diorite and 
serpentine hatchets of the polished stone age have been found, especially in the 
neighbourhood of Bayamo in the eastei'n province. Archaeologists have also 
explored several of the caneijes, or heaps of human remains, occurring in various 
districts. In 1849 Rodriguez-Ferrer jjicked up on a cay south of Puerto 
Principe a human jawbone in a fossil state ; later he found in a burial-place 
near Cape Muisi some native skulls with artificiallj^-depressed foreheads. This 
was a feature common to the human types represented on the Palencpie monuments, 
and both may possibly have belonged to the same race. 

With the exception of the savage Guanataveis (Guanahatabibes) occupying 
the western peninsula near Cape San Antonio, the native pojjulations found in 
the island by Columbus certainlj' spoke the same language as the Yucayos of the 
Bahamas and the people of Haiti and Jamaica. But the local names occurring 
in Espanola (San Domingo) -were partly of Arowak origin ; hence it was con- 
cluded that the inhabitants of the Great Antilles were mostly Arowak immigrants 
from South America, where they still occupy the Essequibo and Surinam valleys 
as well as the Sierra Nevada de Santa ilarta uplands. 

On the other hand, when Grijalva first coasted Yucatan hu was accompanied 
by Cuban interpreters who conversed freely with the natives, so that, if not of the 


same race, they must have had frequent relations with them. The Mayas them- 
selves, Avho claim to have sprung from the sea, regarded the islanders as kinsmen, 
and Orozco y Berra has suggested that the Mayas may have passed from Florida 
through the Bahamas and Cuha to Yucatan. 

But in any case the Mayas greatly resembled the Cibuneyes of Cuba as described 
by the historians of the conquest. Both were stoutly built, -u-ith broad face and 
chest, brown complexion and artificially-depressed forehead ; both were also of 
equally peaceful disposition and ardent lovers of freedom. Nevertheless, the 
Cibimeyes were vastly inferior to the Mayas in general culture. Nowhere in 
Cuba have monuments been found comparable to those of Palenquc, Uxmal or 
Chichen-Itza. A few cairns, graves, and rude carvings on the rocks are all the 
remains that can be attributed to the primitive inhabitants. Amongst these 
carvings noteworthy are the crude representations of manatees in every respect 
resembling those found in the moimds of Ohio, and strongly suggesting a common 

The dwellings, which varied with the different tribes and the rank of the 
owners, were usually the so-called harahacs, vast structures of branches, foliage 
and reeds large enough to shelter hundreds of persons. They had also broad- 
beamed craft, in which they ventured far seawards. They tilled the land and 
were skilful fishers, and were even said to have acquired the art of capturing 
turtles by means of the pegador fish {cc/ieneis naucrates). 

In three years, 1512-15, the interior of the island had been explored, and in 
many districts the aborigines had already disappeared." They offered no resis- 
tance, but simply perished. The cacique Hatuei alone, who had reached the 
eastern part of the island from Haiti, attempted to fight. It was he that, even 
under torture, refused to be baptised in order to avoid entering the same heaven as 
the "good" Spaniards. 

In 1521 the Cuban Indians had already been reduced by two-thirds ; some 
yielded to their sufferings, others hastened their end by swallowing earth and 
gravel, or eating the bitter manioc before being deprived of its jjoisonous sap. 
According to an official report scarcely 4,000 natives had survived till 15o2, so 
that in twenty-one years nearly the whole race had completely disappeared ; yet the 
names of the various tribes and the territories occupied by them have all been care- 
fully preserved. In 1554, 60 families of aborigines still wandering over the western 
part of the island were confined in a sort of lazaretto at Guanabacoa, near Havana, 
but a few fragments of tribes stiU survived in the uplands of the eastern districts. 

Even so late as the 3'ear 1847 Rodriguez-Ferrer visited a family of full-blood 
Indians which occupied a valley of the Sierra Maestra near Tiguabo, and which 
comprised over a hundred members with children, grandchildren, and great-grand- 
children. Several other families in the same district are supposed to be of Indian 
origin, though the racial characteristics have been modified b}' alliances with 
blacks and whites. Miscegenation has been even more general than is usually 
supposed. Nearly all the women were taken by the Spaniards, and their offspring 
were regarded as belonging to the dominant race. 



The negroes imported to replace the exterminated natives increased very 
slowly, so that the losses on the plantations had to be incessantly repaired by fresh 
consignments. Even in the middle of the present century, despite the con- 
ventions signed with Great Britain, despite the laws interdicting the purchase of 
blacks under the severest penalties, from 30 to 50 shiploads of bozales, or " raw 
negroes," continued to be yearly smuggled into the island. The total number 
thus introduced since the official abolition of the traffic in 1820 is estimated at 
about 500,000. This was actually more than the number openly imported during 
the 300 previous years (1521—1821), which was estimated by Humboldt at 413,500 
and by Zaragoza at no more than 372,000. 

The black population did not begin to increase spontaneously till about the 
close of the last century. Its growth, however, was then so rapid that in 1817 

Fig. 174. --Political Division'3 of Cuba befoee the Spanish Cosqttest. 
Scale 1 : 12,000,000. 


iV'est o F Greenwich 

1. GuaD.ihicab.bc3. 6. Macorijea. 

2. Guanifi^uauico. 

3. Alarien. 

4. Habana. 

5. Sabana 

7. Cubanacan. 

8. Hanamana. 

9. Jagua. 

10. Guamuhaya. 

11. Magon. 

12. OiTxofai. 

13. Camag'uei. 

14. Guaimarcs. 
1^. Cayaguayo. 

IG. Boyuca. 
17. Cueib I. 
13. ilaniabon. 

19. Bani. 

20. Guacanayaba. 

.^^^— 245 Miles. 

21. Bayarao. 

22. Ma'ye- 

23. Maguanes. 
2o. Barajagua. 

26. Sagua. 

27. Macaca. 

2S. Bayaquitiri. 

29. Maisi. 

30. Baracoa. 

tte coloured already oiitiuimbcrcd the white population. But the definite sup- 
pression of the slave trade, followed by the war of secession and the abolition 
of slavery iu the United States, led ultimately to a similar measure in Cuba. 
During the insurrection in the eastern districts the revolted planters themselves 
emancipated and armed their slaves against the Spanish troops, and the gradual 
extinction of slavery was officially decreed in 1S80. Absolute emancipation 
was proclaimed seven years later, when not more than 25,000 slaves remained to 
be enfranchised. 

But the change was more apparent than real ; the blacks continued in a state 
of virtual servitude, in which wages were merely substituted for board and lod"*- 
ing. In any case slavery in Cuba had always been of a milder form than in the 
colonies of other nations. The slaves had bjcn guaranteed the *'four ri'^-hts" 


of free marriage, of seeking a new master at tlacir option, of piu'claasing fheir 
freedom by labour, and of acquiring projjerty. 

With emancipation came the necessity of procuring labour from other sources. 
"While the English and French planters had recourse mainly to Indian coolies, 
those of Cuba applied to Macao and Canton for Chinese hands, " engaged " for a 
term of compulsory labour. But the Asiatics at jiresent in the island are far inferior 
to the class introduced about the middle of the century. Yerj' few women ever 
accompanied them, and nearly all were condemned to perish without posterity. 
The census of 1877 returned 43,800 Chinese in Cuba ; 120,000 had been intro- 
duced altogether, and over 16,000, or nearlj' 12 per cent., had died on the passage. 
Thousands of Mayas have also been procured from Yucatan. 

Cuba and Puerto Rico may be referred to as tropical lands where the white 
race has been permanently acclimatised. Cuba alone contains ten times more 
whites of Sjjanish stock than all the British West Indies contain whites of EngHsh 
stock. Nearly half of the labourers on the sugar plantations and in the sugar 
refineries are of Spanish descent — Andalusians, Castilians, Basques, Galicians, 
Catalonians and Islcnos, that is, Canary Islanders — and all these settlers con- 
stitute the class of peasantry called bhvicos de la tierra or goajiros. The Basques and 
Catalonians, settled chiefly in the towns, are the most active, energetic and indus- 
trious ; Jto them is largely due the material progress of the island. 

Recent Political Events. 

Despite the Monroe doctrine, " America for the Americans," Cuba still 
belongs to the descendants of the Spanish conquerors, although all the Spanish 
possessions on the mainland have become independent. Yet the island was often 
threatened by the English and French buccaneers. Twice Havana was occupied 
by British troops, and since the beginning of the present century a rebellious sj)irit 
has been manifested by the natives themselves against the mother-countrj'. 

As in Mexico, the Sj)aniards by birth held the Creoles in contempt, and 
allowed them no share in the administration. The Creoles on their jDart avenged 
themselves by squibs and lampoons, calling the S^xmiards " Godos," or Goths, 
meaning barbarians still enslaved by the superstitions of former times. Class 
hatred spread even to the women, and while the Godas wore their hair long, the 
Cuban dames cut theirs short, whence the name oi pclonas, or "croppies," given 
them by the Spaniards. 

Despite the i^revailing discontent no insurrection broke out at that time, and 
the two classes even became suddenly reconciled in 1812 on hearing that the negroes 
of the eastern district, near Holguin and Bayamo, had revolted. The jjlanters 
of Puerto Principe organised battues against the rebels, who were hounded down 
and massacred in the forests, their leader, Aponte, being hanged, with eight of 
his associates. 

Later, after losing all her possessions on the mainland, Spain granted the 
Cubans the right of representation in the Cortes, and afterwards deprived them 



of the privilege. The island was virtually under martial law, and the captain 
general was permanently invested with the powers of a commander of a besieged 
citadel. But this dictator himself was a mere tool in the hands of a secret power, 
the " Casino espanol," that is, a combination of the great slave-owners. Thanks to 
its wealth, this association easilj' controlled the legislature, bribed venal governors 
and crushed those opposed to its policy, which aimed at the maintenance of the 
slave trade and of slavery. 

Hence the object of the first insurrection about the middle of the century 
was not to abolish slavery, but on the contrary to annex Cuba, the " Lone Star," 
to the other American " stars," and add half a million of slaves and the powerful 
body of the Cuban planters to the political empire of the Soiithern States. The 
"Washington Government, at that time in the hands of the slave party, winked 
at or even encouraged the expeditions fitted out in its ports. Nevertheless, they 
all failed, and Lopez and his filibusters were uuable to hold out for two days at 
Cardenas, where they had landed in ISoI. A second attempt was equally 
unsuccessful, and Lopez was put to the sword, with fifty of his followers. 

Still the country remained in a chronic state of revolution, and after Sj)aLn's 
indignant refusal to sell the island to the States for £40,000,000, the great 
insurrection of 1868 broke out at Yara, in the same eastern district where so many 
risings had already taken place. The movement, which this time aimed at the 
abolition of slavery, spread from the Sierra JLaestra over nearly half the island, 
and the mambi, as the rebels were called, kept the field for ten years. Its sup- 
pression cost Spain altogether nearly 100,000 men, and an expenditure of about 
the very sum offered by President Buchanan for the purchase of Cuba. 

A main object of the revolt was also effected, and in 1880, two years after the 
capitulation of the last republican leaders, the Government found itself compelled 
to pass a law decreeing the gradual extinction of slavery, while safeguarding the 
interests of the great landowners. Cuba is henceforth an integral part of the 
monarchy and at present Spain seems less threatened with the loss of her " pearly" 
than she was fifty years ago. 


The present capital, Habana or Emcuia, that is, according to Bernal Diaz, the 
" Savanna," was not the first Spanish settlement, nor does it even occupy the site 
where it was originally founded. Coming from Espanola the conquerors naturally 
began by securing a footing in the eastern district, where they made choice of 
Baracoa, near Cape Maisi. Then moving westwards they reached the far more 
convenient port of Santiago de Cuba, which was afterwards replaced as the capital 
by the inland town of Bayamo. The first Havana, lying in the western district 
on *Broa Bay, cast of the present town of Batabano, was the fourth capital, but 
it was of difficult access and stood on marshy soil. 

Hence in 1519, seven years after the foundation of Baracoa, the centre of 
administration was removed to the north coast, wbere the first buildings were 
erected at the mouth of the Choireni, or " Ravine," called also Almendares, where 














now stands the Torre cle la Chorrera, known as the " Buccaneers' Fort." Then 
the rising city was removed farther east to the peninsula separating the sea from 
the Careuas basin, the new capital, at first called San Cristobal, gradually taking 
the name of the district — Havana. 

This site offers many advantages, a vast and perfectly-sheltered harbour easily 






defended, and surrounded by highly productive plains, but especially a vitally 
important geographical position about the centre of the American Mediterranean 
and at the very source of the Gulf Stream, that is to say, the natural starting-point 
of the highway between the Antilles and West Europe. Hence its title of L/ave 
del Nucco JItoido, " Key of the New World," indicated by a key in the city arms. 
Havana, by far the first city in the Antilles, occupies a peninsula running 

B B 2 


west and east and terminating in the Morro headland, which commands the 
entrance to the harbour, scarcely 370 yards wide at its narrowest part. On the 
opposite side of the channel rise the strongly-fortified Cabauas hills, whose guns 
produce a cross fire with those of Fort Principe commanding the city on the 
west side, and with other military works round the harbour. 

Beyond the peninsula new quarters have sprung up westwards, while the 
ever-growing suburbs are gradually covering all the encircling heights. The 
population already exceeds a quarter of a million, or about one-sixth of that of 
the whole island. But although the general effect of the picture is pleasing for 
its brightness and animation, there is nothing very imposing either in the aspect 
of the place or in the character or grouping of its public buildings. The houses, 
mostly low, are painted in vivid green, sky blue, pink or yellow colours ; the open 
spaces are relieved with clumps of palms, while the various quarters are separated 
by broad leafy avenues. Conspicuous amongst the public monuments are the 
university. Government palaces and several churches, including the cathedral, 
which, like Santo Domingo, claims to possess the remains of Columbus. Thus the 
great navigator has two resting-places, as he has had several native towns. 

Till recently Havana was badly supplied with water, hence was generally 
unhealthy and frequently ravaged by epidemics, although visited in winter bj"^ 
thousands of invalids from the States. The public fountains were fed by a stream 
derived from the Rio Almendares, which, after tumbling over a series of pictu- 
resque cascades on the west side, winds round Fort ' Princijje through a pleasant 
valley to the sea. Now the city is siipplicd bj' an aqueduct which taps the Rio 
Vento, an upper afiluent of the Almendares, and which jaelds over 5,000,000 cubic 
feet daily to the reservoirs 120 feet above the highest quarters. 

The harbour, although partly made a receptacle for the sewage, is still 
one of the finest in the world, with several square miles of good anchorage, and 
accommodation for a thousand vessels. The foreign trade, averaging £8,000,000 
yearly, is chiefly carried on by American steamers, which here ship coffee, sugar 
and tobacco, the three staple exports of the island. This agricultural produce 
is brought down from the rural districts by three main lines of railway, which 
also serve to distribute the foreign wares over the western and central parts of the 
island. Havana is connected by submarine cables with the United States by Key 
West and with Mexico and Central America by Vera Cruz. 

A few ports presenting a remarkable analogy in their formation follow along 
the coast west of Havana. Such are Marie/, Cahanas and Bahia Honda, all, 
however, inferior in size to Guanajay and Pinar del Rio, the largest inland towns 
in the Vuelta de Abajo, or western extremity of the island. Guanajay is sur- 
rounded by coffee plantations, while the Pinar del Rio district yields the finest 
tobacco in the whole world. The mineral waters of San Diego, in the Organos 
Hills north-east of Pinar, are much frequented in summer. 

South and south-east of Havana are several flourishing places, the largest of 
which is Giianabacon, crowning'a hill which commands a fine panoramic view of 
the capital, its roadstead and environs. Guiites, the chief agricultural centre south 

Scale, Mi», 000. 
tl g&OVaroU 

tc 16-Ff 

16 tc t 



San Die§o 

\*>. ", ;Clunp^?delaCaban 





Gzwo Crtt^ 



0'2 f^ upnarcie. 






of tbe capital, lies about midway between that place and the little port of Baiabano 
on the south coast over against the Isle of Pines. This island itself remained 
uninhabited till the last j-cars of the eighteenth century ; here a military station was 
founded in 182S to guard the approaches to Havana from the south side. 

Mafaiizas, the second city and seaport of Cuba, occupies a position analogous to 
that of the capital, on a deep inlet of the north coast. Its present name, meaning 
the "Putchcries," replaces its official title of San Carlos Alcazar, OinA recalls a 
massacre of the aborigines during the early days of the conquest. But the town 
itself dates only from the year 1G93, when it was founded at the Yucayo headland 
at the extremity of the bay between the Eios Yumuri and San Juan. But the 
city has spread far beyond that headland, and the loft bank of the Yumuri is occu- 

Fig. 176. — Cuban Seapokts "West of Havana. 
Scale 1 : 640,000. 

Pue'rtade la Guira 

WesloF Greenwich 




5 to -250 

250 Fathoms 
and upwards. 

. 12 Miles. 

pied by the pleasant suburb of Versa Iks (Versailles), while the industrial quarters 
of Puchlo Nuero extend eastwards beyond the San Juan. 

The region stretching south and east of Matanzas towards Cardenas is the 
most fertile in Cuba, and